Teenager Al is a Corker!

Alan Browne
Alan Browne
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Alan Browne is enjoying his rapid climb up the football ladder.

In a few short months the teenager has gone from Cork City’s Under-19s side to the cut and thrust of a League One promotion battle with Preston.

He has come on as a sub in North End’s last two games against Peterborough and Crawley Town.

Browne can look forward to more minutes on the pitch in the coming weeks, with a start somewhere in the pipeline between now and the end of the campaign.

The attitude of PNE boss Simon Grayson is that if you are good enough, then you are old enough.

Midfielder Browne is still a couple of weeks short of his 19th birthday but Grayson saw enough in training sessions to promote him to the first-team squad.

He has taken his chance, claiming an assist for the third goal in Preston’s 3-1 win over Peterborough.

Then Browne helped his team-mates hang on to their slender 1-0 lead over Crawley last Saturday during a 25-minute run-out.

It is Bristol City away for North End tomorrow, the visit to Ashton Gate another test of their promotion credentials.

The initial tip-off about Browne’s talents came the way of PNE last autumn from a horse racing contact of club owner Trevor Hemmings.

He was invited over for a trial in October and signed in January after Preston agreed a nominal fee with Cork.

Browne said: “I was away with the Irish team when I first heard that Preston were coming over to watch me.

“I met with Peter Ridsdale after an Ireland game and he told me all about the club.

“It seemed like a good opportunity and it had always been an ambition of mine to come and play in England.

“Before coming here I was mainly playing in Cork’s Under-19s because the first team’s season had finished.

“The Under-19s had won the cup three years running and it was a decent standard but coming here was certainly a step up.

“I was a bit intimidated when I first arrived – I have always been a bit shy anyway.

“But from the first day the other lads were brilliant with me and I can’t single any one of them out because they have all helped me.

“I suppose that to start with, I was holding back a bit in training because I didn’t want to make too many mistakes.

“But in the last few weeks I have been playing my own game and things has gone well for me.

“When one or two players were loaned out recently, it was at the back of my mind that I would perhaps get my chance.

“In my first game I set up our third goal, which I was delighted to do.

“I didn’t think I did that much against Crawley last time out but thankfully we won the game.

“Watching from the bench, it was a scrappy game, a case of holding on to the lead and hoping that Crawley wouldn’t score an equaliser.

“When I came on, John Welsh was first up to me to wish me all the best and then he talked me through the game.”

Browne sees himself as a bit of an all-rounder in terms of playing in the midfield.

He likes to go box to box, happy to do the defensive side of the game as well as the more eye-catching work further up the pitch.

“To be honest I have always liked to tackle,” said Browne.

“Making a good tackle can set the tone of a game, so that is important. I like to get forward into the box too, support the front lads and help set things up.”

Cork-born Browne admits that being away from home at a young age has not been easy.

Steadily though, he is adapting to life without his mum’s cooking.

He said: “This is my first time living away from home – it was always going to be difficult and I did miss my family and friends back home.

“But thankfully I have settled in well and things are going well.

“The club have been brilliant with me. They gave me an apartment to stay in.

“It has everything in and is grand for me.

“In the past I had not done much in the way of cooking and cleaning.

“I still struggle a bit with the cooking, which means the same sort of meals every night.

“But it is good experience and I’m getting better.”

North End head to the West Country tomorrow with business still to be done.

A play-off place is virtually secure but Grayson’s men still cling to the hope of clambering up into the top two.

Said Browne: “Hopefully we can get automatic promotion – if not we will do our best to win the play-offs.

“It would be great to get back to the Championship, and we have shown in the cup games this season that we can beat teams from that level.

“Tomorrow’s game will be another difficult one because Bristol City have been going well recently.

“If we could get the three points that would be a massive boost. It would keep us right in there and hopefully other teams can slip up.”