Preston North End boss Simon Grayson says that Ben Davies will be very much part of his first-team plans this season.
The 18-year-old left-back spent the whole of last term on loan at York City, winning the Minstermen’s young player of the year award.
Grayson was delighted with Davies’ development during the loan spell and wants him competing for a place in the Lilywhites squad in 2014/15.
Cumbrian-born Davies signed a new two-year contract with North End in May, highlighting the promise which the club see in him.
Returning from York with Davies was PNE team-mate Will Hayhurst, the winger having joined them on loan in January.
Hayhurst will also be given the opportunity to push for a first-team place.
Grayson told the Evening Post: “They are in my plans for the new season, having been out to get first-team experience.
“Both lads will certainly have come back better players for the experience.
“Ben had a full season at York, which for an 18-year-old playing in high-pressure games was fantastic.
“It wasn’t to be for York in terms of getting promoted in the play-offs but Ben will have learned so a lot.
“What will have helped him too was working with their manager Nigel Worthington, who was such a good left-back in his playing days.”
Grayson views Davies as being best suited as a left-back at the moment, rather than the centre-half role which he played in youth ranks at PNE.
It was at left-back where he made three appearances in the Preston side in 2012/13. And at York, all of his 47 appearances came in the full-back slot.
Said Grayson: “With Ben being so young, the physical side of the game might be a little too much for him to play at centre-half yet.
“I can see him playing at left-back, left wing-back or if we play three centre-backs, he could play the left-side role.
“Ben has matured, he’s come back here as a man.
“You look at him now, he has grown and developed in physique.
“He has also got a different hairstyle – he’s probably lost a bit of weight with the change of barnet!”
The North End squad is well stocked with left-backs, Davies now in competition with Scott Laird and David Buchanan, who shared the role last season.
Nick Anderton caught the eye at left-back in the youth team last season and signed a professional contract in the summer.
It is likely that he will loaned out this term to get senior experience, as will fellow new pro Jack Ryan.
Meanwhile, North End will increase the pace of their build-up to the new season when they kick off their friendly programme this week.
They play Chorley at Victory Park tomorrow (7pm) and then welcome Liverpool to Deepdale on Saturday.
“We have done a lot of good work on the training pitch over the last week or so, but it is the games which test the fitness,” said Grayson.
“Players make different runs in a game, the concentration levels need to be higher too.”