Deepdale boss does not fear giving youth a chance

Josh Earl in action on his PNE debut against Reading
Josh Earl in action on his PNE debut against Reading
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Preston manager Alex Neil is happy for the North End side to have a younger look about it and will always be prepared to give youth its chance.

The average age of the PNE starting XI for the last two games was 23.

Neil pitched 18-year-old Josh Earl in for his debut for the 1-0 win over Reading two weeks ago.

Loanee Stephy Mavididi, 19, is another teenager who is pushing for a start.

“I’ve got no fear of putting any of them in,” said Neil.

“I’m totally comfortable with what I deliver to them in terms of trying to get them prepared and ready.”

Neil’s leaning towards a younger side is not hindered by an absence of an Under-23s squad at Deepdale.

It has been five years since PNE had an official reserve team, the preference since for players on the fringes of the first-team picture to get match sharpness in behind-closed-doors bounce games.

While it means a big jump between the youth system and the first team – one which Earl has recently made – Neil is happy with the set-up.

Said Neil: “Every club has got their own structure.

“We can put out such a good competitive first team because we are not carrying excess numbers in terms of having an Under-23s squad.

“Because of the club we are, the structure we’ve got at the moment and potentially the limited finances compared to some other clubs, we couldn’t afford to go and supplement a 23s team and make our first team as strong as it is at the moment. That’s a necessary evil.

“What it means is that for young lads like Josh Earl, the jump from 18s to first team is quite considerable.

“He’s proved that it’s not an impossible task.

“It’s about making sure we get the right young players in and give them an opportunity.

“That’s the big thing, giving them a chance.

“We have spoken about the pressures of big clubs developing young players and making them better and developing a young team, you’re not going to win every week doing that.

“They’re inexperienced, they’re going to make mistakes, that’s how they learn.

“Some clubs, and certainly the managers at the bigger clubs, will be brave if they’re flinging young kids in.

“The fact is they need to win and they need to win now.”

Preston return to action after the international break when they host Barnsley on Saturday.

It is a six-game month for Neil’s men, four of those at Deepdale.

The clash with Barnsley is followed by a home game with table toppers Cardiff, then they go to Birmingham.

Home games with Millwall and Sunderland sandwich a midweek trip to Hull City.