It’s fair to say that Alan Browne has been an unbelievable bargain for Preston.

Signed from Cork City in January 2014, North End paid just £10,000 to land the midfielder. Initially viewed as one for the future, Browne forced his way into Simon Grayson’s side in just a couple of months.

Browne has now racked up more than 200 appearances for North End, becoming an important player under Alex Neil. With 20 goals in his two campaigns under Neil, and just seven in the three-and-a-half years before that, his progression has been remarkable.

The 24-year-old was given a chance to show his quality last night. Mick McCarthy handed him a first start for the Republic of Ireland, in their friendly with Bulgaria.

Browne opened the scoring from close range, again showing his goalscoring ability. McCarthy was impressed with Browne, so more Ireland caps should be on the way.

Alan Browne of Ireland celebrates. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Browne is certainly worth much, much more than the £10,000 North End paid, and more international caps will only increase his value. He’s a major asset for North End both on the pitch and in a financial sense.

Now though, Kevin Kilbane has revealed to Virgin Media how it all could have been so different. Kilbane was with Hull City when he put forward Browne’s name as a potential target, having been recommended by John Fallon.

Preston-born Kilbane claims that Hull wouldn’t pay just €2,500 (around £2,000) to sign Browne, but he’s glad that Browne ended up at North End, feeling he has done ‘magnificently well’ since arriving at Deepdale.

“I actually had him over at Hull when he was 16 years of age,” said Kilbane. “It was the brilliant Irish scout John Fallon who rang me up and said ‘have a look at this kid’, I got in contact with Ringmahon Rangers, I spoke to Connor down there. They actually wanted an initial fee of €2,500 to bring him to Hull, and Hull refused to pay it. I was gutted, because I saw him and I saw he had real potential to play in midfield, he could do a job at full back.”

“I’m so pleased for him that he scored tonight, because he is a player I saw immediately that he could go on and go to the next level. To be honest, if there was any club I wanted to see outside of Hull at the time sign him, it was Preston North End. He went to Cork initially, then Preston signed him, he’s done magnificently well,” he added.

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