Alex Neil has been impressed by what he has seen from Preston North End’s academy striker Ethan Walker.
The 16-year-old was a late call-up to the Lilywhites squad for the 1-1 draw at Hull on Saturday, having been training with the first team.
The former Broughton High School and Cottam Primary pupil was due to play for the Under-18s that morning but with Callum Robinson, Tom Barkhuizen and Tom Clarke ruled out, Walker was driven across the M62 at short notice.
As it was, Robinson, who had been unwell overnight, was fit enough to make the bench and replaced Sean Maguire in the second half.
Walker had to be content with being 19th man but did still warm up with the rest of the players as he got his first matchday experience with the senior team.
“He’s had about three sessions with us in the last week-and-a-half which is a lot considering we’ve done seven,” said Neil.
“He is only 16 but he’s very good. He’s very direct and dynamic. He’s quite stocky but is powerful and quick with it. He’s got potential.”
It is no surprise to see Neil call up a young player, the policy having been a feature of his time in charge at Deepdale.
Josh Earl was surprisingly fast-tracked into the starting XI in his first year as a professional last season and is now a feature of the first-team squad.
Young midfielders Adam O’Reilly and Jack Baxter have also been in and around the first-team squad, while Jack Armer – a Scotland youth international – is another to have trained with the first team this campaign.
“What we always try and do is bring the young lads up from the academy for a spell,” Neil said.
“Jack Armer, the young left centre-back, was up earlier in the season and we’ll always try and get them involved where we can.
“The tempo and the quality is at a different level and we need to try and get them up to speed as quickly as we can.
“The difficulty we’ve always got here is that we haven’t got an Under-23s side.
“That’s why as well as having the young lads train with us we try and bridge that gap with a loan in between and some sort of men’s football.”
Teenage striker Connor Simpson made it two goals in two games for his loan club Hyde United on Saturday while another forward, Michael Howard, is also in the NPL Premier Division with Hednesford Town.