Preston North End’s youth team secured the EFL Youth Alliance North West Conference title today by smashing Port Vale 8-1 on Tuesday.
Preston knew a win would see them crowned champions and they secured three points in style with a thumping win.
Aaron Bennett got the scoring started before Jacob Slater made it 2-0, with recent first-team debutant Mikey O’Neill adding a third.
Slater made it 4-0 and Jacob Holland-Wilkinson joined in for a fifth, with Preston 5-0 up inside 32 minutes.
Port Vale pulled one back before Bennett scored twice to complete his hat-trick, with Josh Scary adding the eight in the dying seconds.
It’s one thing to win a title decided but to hammer your opponents 8-1? That’s quite incredible from Preston’s Under-19’s.
The challenge for these young players is to kick on to the first team, with real buzz that this could be North End’s best crop of youngsters in a long time.
O’Neill’s first-team inclusion shows that these players can achieve, with first-team boss Ryan Lowe more than willing to play youngsters if they’re good enough.
You look down the team sheet against Port Vale and there are a host of players who could step up in the coming years.
Goalkeeper James Pradic will be well aware that Preston are losing Daniel Iversen, Connor Ripley and Mathew Hudson are all leaving this summer and will hope to move up.
Slater could be valuable as a left-footed defender, whether that’s at left wing back or left-sided centre back whilst there are high hopes for right wing back Seary.
O’Neill is the current big hope having impressed Lowe whilst Bennett has bags of quality and creativity, with the playmaker coming back from a major injury.
Joe Rodwell-Grant and Jacob Holland-Wilkinson have both been around the first-team picture in the past, with the strikers showing some potential.
Add in Noah Mawene on the bench and Preston appear to have a very exciting group of youngsters to work with right now.
Having clinched a league title, the goal has to be to play in the Preston first team – and that could happen under Lowe.