Preston North End boss wants a better pathway between academy and first-team at Deepdale

Ryan Lowe wants there to be a better pathway between Preston North End’s academy and the first-team squad but says that progression has to be earned by young players.

By Dave Seddon
Thursday, 14th April 2022, 8:00 am

PNE boss Lowe gave Mikey O’Neill his senior debut against Queens Park Rangers last week after the second-year scholar had trained regularly with his squad in recent months.

O’Neill was in the Under-19s side which won the North West Youth Alliance title on Tuesday, clinching top spot with a 8-1 thrashing of Port Vale.

Next month, they have the chance to add more silverware to the collection when they face Luton Town at Kenilworth Road in the national final of the Youth Alliance Cup.

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Mikey O'Neill comes on as a substitute for Preston North End against Queens Park Rangers at Deepdale

Lowe won’t hand out opportunities at first-team level for the sake of it, as some kind of box-ticking exercise. His stance will be if he thinks a youngster is good enough, they will get a chance.

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"One thing they know now, which hasn’t really happened for a little while, is that youth players will get their opportunity to play in the first-team if they are good enough,” Lowe told the Lancashire Post.

"As long as their attitude and application is spot on, I’ll give them their chance.

"If I was a youth-team player now, I’d be thinking ‘Yes, this gaffer is going to give me a chance if I’m performing well’.

"That should be their objective to get up here first and foremost to train with us and then get an appearance.

"I believe there hasn’t really been that pathway.

"When I was Plymouth manager I gave the goalkeeper Michael Cooper his chance at 20 because I’d seen from day one how good he was going to be.

"I see a similarity in Mikey O’Neill here, even though he in an attacking midfielder/striker and Michael Cooper is a keeper.”

Lowe intends having a couple more of the second-year scholars training with the first-team in the next couple of weeks.

It will soon be decision time on which of the second years to offer professional contracts to.

Lowe said: “We will definitely have one or two coming here for training, we have to decide on these kids’ futures.

"The second year scholars, Nick Harrison (academy manager) will deal with soon.

"The first years are young lads and have another year to really kick on. Some of them have really stood out to be fair.”