Preston North End explain their youth-team policy and why they don't have an Under-23s squad

Preston North End have defended their youth policy and given their reasons why they don’t have an Under-23s side to bridge the gap to the first-team squad.

By Dave Seddon
Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 4:45 pm

The Lilywhites opted to sign only one of last season’s second-year scholars on professionals terms, Ethan Walker getting a deal.

PNE released the other second years at the end of their scholarships, there being some surprise that Tyrhys Dolan was among those let go – he has since joined Blackburn’s Under-23s.

Peter Ridsdale, advisor to North End owner Trevor Hemmings, put out a statement on the club’s official website to explain what was required of the youth set-up.

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Ben Davies is the most successful PNE academy graduate in recent years

It followed a statement last week on the financial health of PNE and how season tickets would be managed once fans were allowed back at grounds.

Preston’s academy is a category three set-up and there are no plans to upgrade from that.

Ridsdale wrote: “We have taken a strategic decision not to attempt to move from Category Three to Category Two for two reasons.

“From a cost point of view the increased mandatory spend level including the cost of an Under 23 team is not insignificant and would merely reduce the amount that we have to spend on the first team.

Ethan Walker was the only second-year scholar to be given a professional deal by Preston North End

“In addition, it is our view that ‘Under 23’ league football is far removed from the challenges that ‘men’s football’ brings with it and we would much prefer to see those U18s that we think stand a chance, going either straight into our first team squad or going out on loan to lower league clubs.

“Ben Davies is a good example who spent time at York, Newport and Fleetwood Town before playing on a regular basis in our first team.

“Josh Earl has similarly enjoyed loan spells at Bolton and Ipswich before re-joining the first team squad this summer to fight for his place.

“The instructions to Nick Harrison, who heads up our Academy, is one of quality not quantity.

“We already have Ben Davies, Josh Earl, Mathew Hudson, Adam O’Reilly, Jack Baxter and Ethan Walker who came through our academy system and have full professional contracts.

"The challenge that we face is to ensure that the players who are not competing for a place in the first team match day squad today, get the right experience in men's competitive football before returning to the club.

"This in itself is difficult as there are only some lower league clubs who recognise the opportunity that this gives them in increasing their squad quality threshold on a cost effective basis.

"We are proud of the work that our youth development professionals undertake and the players that they bring through against highly competitive geographic competition."

PNE’s academy is based at the UCLan Sports Arena, Cottam. The scholars are back in pre-season training, North End having taken on 10 first years to add to this season’s second-year group.