Preston North End manager Simon Grayson has told the next crop of Deepdale kids to use Josh Brownhill as motivation when trying to carve out a future in senior football.
Brownhill, 18, signed a two-and-a-half-year professional contract with PNE yesterday which capped a dramatic rise from youth team to first-team regular in a matter of months.
Until early October, the midfielder was skippering North End’s youth team as a second-year scholar.
A run of impressive displays for Nick Harrison’s academy side saw him invited to join in training with the senior squad, and he’s not looked back since his debut in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against Oldham.
Brownhill scored on his first start for the Lilywhites away at Gillingham, and he has made 17 appearances – 13 starts and four from the bench.
North End had to ward off strong interest from several Premier League clubs for the teenager who was a schoolboy player on Manchester United’s books until the age of 15.
But there was no danger of losing him immediately as they had the option of a year’s pro contract on him, as they do with all their scholars.
“Credit to Nick Harrison at the academy, they spotted him when he was at Manchester United,” said Grayson.
“He did well in the youth team and we took him in for training with us earlier in the season.
“Eventually we threw him into the first-team, and when you do that either you sink or swim. Josh came through with flying colours and I’m delighted that he has signed.
“We could have been ruthless as a club and taken up his option which we had on him anyway – he wasn’t going to go for at least 18 months.
“But it was only right that we secured him longer term and he got paid what he is worth.
“He should be the inspiration and motivation for our other young players coming through the youth system.
“We feel that we have one or two other young kids who can be a force for this club for many years to come.”
Brownhill is likely to return to North End’s squad for today’s league clash with Leyton Orient at Deepdale.
He has missed the last three games with a thigh strain sustained in the goalless draw at Nottingham Forest three weeks ago.
The teenager was recently short-listed for the League One apprentice of the year award, and has made the final 10 in the voting for the league’s Goal of the Year.
“It is brilliant for Josh because he has worked extremely hard to get to where he is now,” said Grayson.
“For us, a young talent committing his future for the length of time he has, speaks volumes for what we are trying to achieve at this club and where we want to go.
“There has been a lot of talk and speculation about other people watching him, and rightly so because he is a young English player with a lot of potential.
“Josh is a really good lad who has got his head screwed on in terms of wanting to play football and not get carried away with any paper talk.
“Hopefully he will carry on improving because he wants to learn and I think he will do.”