Simon Grayson has backed his young guns to help fire Preston North End to glory this season.
The PNE manager handed another of his protégés a chance to shine on Saturday as Irish teenager Alan Browne came in for his first start.
The 18-year-old, from Cork, capped his full debut by scoring the second goal as PNE went on to rout Carlisle United 6-1 at Deepdale.
The win maintained the team’s slim hopes of earning automatic promotion to the Championship, while further cementing their place in the top six in League One.
Browne is the second teenager to be handed his North End debut by Grayson this season, following in the footsteps of fellow midfielder Josh Brownhill.
Indeed for a period late in the second half on Saturday, the pair were on the pitch at the same time when Brownhill, also 18, was introduced to the action as a 74th-minute substitute for Neil Kilkenny.
Brownhill has figured 28 times for Preston so far this season – scoring three times – while Browne has come off the bench on three occasions before making his full debut.
Grayson was delighted with the way the young Irishman adapted on Saturday and said the pair have given him plenty of food for thought as he looks to find a promotion-winning formula between now and the end of the season.
Grayson said: “Alan Browne in midfield looked like he had played 100 games.
“I thought it was a fantastic opportunity for him to come into the starting line-up after his brief appearances as a sub. He showed huge calmness on the ball, good energy to get around the pitch and he has got an eye for goal.
“We are very pleased with how he has developed.
“He has given me something to think about, as Josh Brownhill did when he came on later in the game.
“I could have played either of them but Josh has already had some game time this season, so we felt Alan was ready for his full first-team debut.”
Although the man-of-the-match accolade went to hat-trick hero Craig Davies, many North End supporters felt Browne’s performance was worthy of the award.
And he has put himself in pole position to earn another starting spot for the Good Friday trip to second-placed Brentford.
“I challenged Alan before the game and told him he had the shirt and it was his to lose to a certain degree,” Grayson said.
“He was the best option for us. I could have played Josh – they are very similar, although Josh is a bit more of an attacking midfielder and Alan likes a tackle.
“But I’m really pleased with what the young players have done. We throw these players in because we have seen what they have done in training over the weeks and months.
“I had no fear about throwing them in.”
As of yesterday, only a handful of away tickets remained on sale for the trip to Griffin Park on Friday. North End have been allocated a maximum of 1,600 tickets.