Preston are in pre-season action again today, travelling to Goodison Park to take on Everton in a second Premier League clash in as many days.
North End took on Sheffield United on Friday, claiming a 2-2 draw at Bramall Lane with an impressive display against the Blades.
This trip to Everton will be Preston’s final pre-season game before the Championship season kicks off next weekend, and there will likely be 11 changes today.
Nobody will be expected to play two lots of 90 minutes in 24 hours, so who could be in Alex Neil’s side today?
Friday’s substitutes Connor Ripley, Darnell Fisher, Paul Huntington, Jordan Storey, Josh Earl, Tom Bayliss, Paul Gallagher, Josh Harrop, Brad Potts and Jayden Stockley will almost certainly start.
That leaves one spot to fill, either out wide or in midfield. Alan Browne and Seani Maguire are on international duty, Josh Ginnelly has moved on to Hearts and David Nugent has been told he is surplus to requirements.
Teenagers Adam O’Reilly, Jack Baxter and Ethan Walker were all on the bench at Sheffield United, meaning one of them may have a chance to start – and it could be Walker’s big opportunity.
Walker can slot into that role on the left flank, with Harrop as the number 10 and Potts wide on the right. Alternatively, Walker can play on right, with Harrop on the left and Potts as the 10.
Walker is just 18, but has already made his first-team debut under Neil. The teenager was a substitute against Aston Villa in December 2018, and became Preston’s youngest ever player in a league game at just 16 years and 156 days old.
📽️ The 2019/20 campaign was another successful one for @Ethanwalker_7… 🌟
— PNE Academy (@pnefcacademy) August 12, 2020
The attacker hasn’t featured in the first team since then, but has been around the squad on matchdays and in senior training since signing professional terms earlier this summer.
Fans have been keen to see Walker in action having emerged as the hot young prospect from the youth setup, and with few other options ahead of today’s game, this could end up being Walker’s big chance to play from the start.
It’s certainly a challenge to throw him in against Premier League opposition, but the same would be true of throwing O’Reilly or Baxter into the midfield.
Given the competition for places in midfield, neither look too likely to break through this season, whereas Walker could push for playing time in the cup and off the bench if he makes an impression – and that path should start today.