Preston isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of footballing talent, and North End themselves have mixed results when it comes to developing that homegrown talent.
Kevin Kilbane, Andy Lonergan and Paul McKenna emerged from the youth ranks having been born in Preston, but Danny Mayor and Jamie Proctor couldn’t follow suit.
Other talents to come through have been brought into Preston, such as Australian defender Bailey Wright, Barrow-born centre back Ben Davies and ex-Manchester United midfielder Josh Brownhill.
Some flew the nest early like James Weir, but some have slipped Preston’s radar. Phil Jones hailed from Clayton-le-Woods but joined Blackburn Rovers, whilst Clarke Carlisle had to wait until he was in his 30’s to join North End despite going to school in Leyland.
There’s now another Preston-born player thriving, but sadly, away from North End.
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Accrington Stanley attacker Dion Charles was born in Preston, but started his career with our bitter rivals Blackpool – just like Carlisle did. After leaving the Tangerines in 2014, Charles had spells with AFC Fylde, Skelmersdale, Fleetwood Town, Halifax Town and Southport, predominantly staying around the North West coast.
After impressing at Southport last season, Accrington plucked him from non-league and threw him into League One action. So far, their decision has been a masterstroke.
Charles has racked up nine goals and eight assists this season, starring for Stanley whilst playing either on the left flank or up front – the sort of versatility Alex Neil loves at Preston.
Charles is just 24, meaning that whilst he is something of a late-comer to league football, he still has real potential – and is showing that he is more than good enough for League One.
We had heard in January that North End have looked at Charles, possibly with a view to a future move, but possibly just to check up on in-form players in League One – a division Preston are prolific in recruitment-wise.
It’s always great to see players impressing after having to drop to non-league, and Charles is another case. Whether he ends up at Preston or not, he’s taking his chance in League One now it’s finally arrived – and as a Preston lad, we all want to see him succeed.