The pathway from youth football to the first team is always a tricky one to negotiate. For all the success a youth team might have it is still hard to displace seasoned pros, as it is a huge jump to make.
This season Preston North End’s youth team have won the North West Youth Alliance title. They clinched it in style with some memorable wins this season including a recent 8-1 win over Port Vale.
This evening, they will take on Luton Town at Kenilworth Road in the Youth Alliance Cup final. A lot of them have featured in the reserves heavily this season as well who won the Central League North Title this week.
Mikey O’Neill has been one of the standout players and made his professional debut last month in the home game against Queens Park Rangers.
It would be nice to see more come through and develop. It has been a limited pathway in the past with only Josh Earl coming through to establish himself at the club, but he could find himself moving on at the end of the season anyway.
Of course the most successful youth graduate in recent years is Ben Davies who moved on to Liverpool, and was actually back at Deepdale to see the shocking display against Blackburn Rovers last Monday.
Ryan Lowe has now taken the decision to move James Beet into the role of player loans and pathways manager. He had previously been the senior recruitment analyst after arriving from Barnsley in March 2021.
Speaking to the Lancashire Evening Post, Lowe said;
“He’s good with the players, he goes to watch lots of games and he’s in touch with other clubs.”
“Next year we think there will be a lot of lads who we think can push on and represent Preston North End in the Championship and beyond but they need the right clubs to play at on loan.”
“Ideally we need them to go to league clubs. I remember when I was playing that if a player went on loan from Preston they were going to League Two clubs.”
In the past younger players have usually gone on loan to clubs like Bamber Bridge and Clitheroe to gain first team experience, but Lowe wants them higher up the pyramid.
He went on to identify Noah Mawene and Josh Seary as players who could follow O’Neill into the first team squad though so there may be opportunities for some to stick around at North End instead of loan moves.