Alex Neil says he has to show a degree of patience with Josh Harrop to allow the Preston midfielder’s game to develop.
The 23-year-old was back in competitive action in the 4-0 win at Bradford, scoring the fourth goal moments after coming off the bench.
Harrop missed most of last season after undergoing knee surgery to repair a ruptured cruciate ligament.
In his first campaign at Deepdale, 27 of his 39 games came as a substitute.
Neil said: “Josh is still to find his best position and I have spoken a lot with him about that recently.
“For me, he is a creative player and if you are creative then you need to score goals, get assists and put crosses into the box.
“We have to bear in mind that before Josh came here, he hadn’t really played first-team football, he hadn’t been on loan anywhere and had played just one game at the end of the season in Manchester United’s first team.
“He played some games in his first season with us and then missed most of the last one with his injury.
“Josh is 23 but in terms of his amount of game-time, he is still 21 for me.
“I think we have to be more patient with him in terms of him making a difference in games.
“Any player who comes out of Under-23s football will find it tough to start with.
“We had Lukas Nmecha last season who was arguably the best Under-23s player in the country at the time and he found it tough.
“Suddenly you are playing men’s football, coming up against uncompromising guys who have mortgages to pay and have been at this level for a long time.
“They are not going to let a young whipper-snapper come in and take the Mick. For Josh, it is about getting to a point of being effective on a consistent basis.”
In terms of positioning, Neil says Harrop is currently an option for three roles.
However, in all of them he has stern competition.
Said Neil: “Josh has got a lot of strings to his bow.
“He can play as a 10, he can play off the left side and I think he can play slightly deeper as an ‘eight’ depending on the game.
“If he’s coming off the left, he has competition from Tom Barkhuizen, Andre Green, Sean Maguire.
“In terms of No.10s we have got Daniel Johnson, Alan Browne, Brad Potts – all lads who have done well for us.
“Josh did well for us on Tuesday night at Bradford, he made an impact, which is what we asked him to do.”
Meanwhile, Preston have been drawn away to Chorley in the Lancashire Senior Cup first round. The game is due to be played before the end of September.