It’s a family affair for PNE striker

Will Keane in action

Will Keane in action

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Preston North End boss Simon Grayson has had a couple of extra taps on the shoulder this week from his young striker Will Keane.

The 22-year-old is always eager to catch his manager’s eye and win a spot in the North End starting XI.

But this weekend’s trip to Burnley carries extra significance for him as he is likely to come up directly against his twin brother and Clarets central defender Michael .

Will has not featured from the start for North End since the 3-1 away defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

He has, though, made several appearances from the substitutes’ bench in that time and is hoping Saturday is the day he finally returns to the starting XI.

The attendance at Turf Moor is set to be boosted by several members of the Keane family and Will admits the day is going to be special.

“All the family are coming – it’s going to be a full house,” Will said.

“I think they are going to be sitting in the players’ lounge where it’s nice and warm. I think they are all going to be watching the game as neutrals.

“They will be hoping that we both do well – they will probably be happy with a score-draw and for us both to score.

“Obviously I am hoping to start the game.

“I speak to the manager most weeks, especially since I’ve not been starting recently.

“He tells me where he thinks I can improve and I go away and analyse my own performance.

“I am doing everything I can to try to get back in the team.

“If I start against Burnley, or come on off the bench, I will be giving it everything.”

Should Keane be given the nod by Grayson, it will only be the second time he has faced his brother – unless you count all the kickabouts they had in their back garden as kids.

The twins played on opposite sides when Will was on loan at QPR and Michael was being borrowed by Blackburn Rovers.

On that occasion Michael had the bragging rights over his brother, as Rovers won 2-0 at Ewood Park in April 2014.

But Will is hoping it is he who is the one who has a smile on his face come 5pm on Saturday. “We played against each other a couple of years ago ,” he said.

“We did not actually come up directly against each other, as he was playing right-back, but on the night they came out on top 2-0.

“I think I hit the post in that match, which was a little unlucky but maybe I should have done a little bit better.

“He had the bragging rights on that occasion, so I am hoping it is me who has them after the game on Saturday.

“We’ve been having a bit of banter with each other all week – we speak all the time.

“He’s scored a couple of goals for Burnley this season and he says he’s hoping that I’m 
marking him at set-plays, which I don’t mind – I’ll happily do 
that.”

It is a remarkable story that the twins – who were born just a minute apart with Michael the slight elder – have developed into professional footballers.

Both were signed by Manchester United as youngsters and graduated through the youth teams to make an appearance in the first team at Old Trafford.

In search of regular first-team football, centre-half Michael joined Burnley last season – initially on loan before completing a permanent 
three-year deal in January.

Will is still attached to United, but was snapped up by Preston on a season-long loan during the summer.

“It is a remarkable story ,” Will said.

“It was an amazing experience coming through the ranks with my brother.

“We were also a very successful youth team – a very tight unit.

“I kind of look back on all that as the good old days , even though I’m still young.

“Back then, I think Michael was a little bit of a later developer than me. When you’re young you kind of grow at different rates and I had a growth spurt before him.

“He will probably agree with that, but United always use Michael as an example of somebody who had to really work hard and dedicate himself to get to where he is now.

“He played in the Premier League for Burnley last season and he showed that he’s capable of playing at that level.

“I am sure he has ambitions of getting back to that level with Burnley, as I do ultimately.

“I would describe Michael as a complete defender. He is very good in the air and reads the game well.

“He’s also very good on the ball, he brings the ball out and he’s very good at set-plays, both attacking and defending.”

So far this season Keane has made 16 appearances for North End – the majority of which have been off the bench. He has notched once in the Capital One Cup at Crewe and agrees there is a lot more to come from him.

“On a personal note this season has been a bit up and down,” he said “I think I started quite well, but then I had a period out of the team.

“Coming off the bench trying to get back in the team, I think I have been doing well, but it’s been hard because the team has been doing well.”