Preston allowed a number of senior players to leave the club this week, with club captain Tom Clarke the biggest name to depart Deepdale.
Michael Crowe, Connor Simpson and Kevin O’Connor have all left the club, with North End deciding not to extend their deals beyond June 30th.
Clarke’s departure has sparked an outpouring of emotion, but North End have released other players too – and there has been a mass exodus at youth level.
North End confirmed that Ethan Walker is the only second-year scholar to stay on at Deepdale. All other second-year scholars have been released, with some shocks in the list.
The biggest surprise is the release of Tyrhys Dolan. The diminutive playmaker has always looked like an exciting, creative talent as a number 10 in the Under-18’s, whilst also playing out wide or up front.
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We wrote in March that Dolan was a reason to be excited. Formerly of Manchester City and Burnley, Dolan turned heads in the North End setup, and looked to have the potential for senior football moving forward.
However, the 18-year-old has moved on. There have been murmurings of Championship interest in Dolan, who won’t be short of offers after leaving Deepdale.
Seeing him join another Championship club would leave many perplexed by the decision to let him go. Maybe North End felt he was too small; maybe they would rather put all their eggs in Walker’s basket when it comes to an attacking talent. Maybe there are higher hopes for Aaron Bennett than there are for Dolan.
From the outside looking in, this may really be related to North End’s lack of an Under-23 team. There is no bridge between the youth team and the first time, given that Preston ditched the development squad under Graham Westley.
Rather than put funds into that intermediate path, Preston focused their money on the first team. Even back then, it resulted in left back Reece James joining Manchester United having not been given a professional deal at North End.
Dolan maybe isn’t ready for Championship action, but with no development squad, Preston were faced with the decision of either promotion him this summer or letting him go; they have chosen the latter.
Hopefully, this doesn’t bite North End. It would be galling to see talented youngsters move on to other clubs and thrive, though tough decisions have to be made in light of the global pandemic.
Goalkeeper Jimmy Corcoran is also on the move, just two years since arriving from Cherry Orchard. He was tipped for a bright future then, but North End – who have given Mathew Hudson a new contract – seemingly feel that the Irishman just won’t make the grade.
Lincoln McFayden, Lewis Earl, Joe Nolan and Brian McManus are leaving too, and many fans are frustrated at the lack of a pathway from youth team to first team. North End aren’t producing many first-team players from the youth setup, and the lack of a development squad – plus a bloated first-team squad in some areas – mean there just aren’t chances for youngers right now.
Hopefully, Walker – the most exciting Preston prospect in some time – can make the grade. In a year’s time, we may see Bennett and Jacob Holland-Wilkinson step up, but fans seem a little disillusioned with the lack of Under-18 players emerging into the first team at Deepdale – and after the latest batch of releases, it’s hard to blame them.