Preston North End youngster Ethan Walker on benefits of loan spell in NPL Premier Division

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Ethan Walker feels he is learning valuable lessons from his current loan at Stalybridge Celtic.

Walker joined the NPL Premier Division side at the same time as fellow Preston North End midfielder Adam O’Reilly in the last week of January.

While the Irishman has featured regularly for Celtic, Walker has had a more frustrating time recently, having been sidelined with injury.

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“The move to Stalybridge is going well but I’d been out with an injury for a few weeks,” Walker told the Lancashire Post.

North End youngster Ethan WalkerNorth End youngster Ethan Walker
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“I’m back training. It was just a bit of ligament pain on the interior and exterior of my ankle.

“These things happen in football, you get injuries and you’ve just got to deal with them and move on.”

With still a year left as a scholar at Deepdale, Walker has signed a pre-contract deal and will become a professional at the end of his two years in PNE’s Under-18s.

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Walker was a standout performer in the youth team’s defeat to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Youth Cup at Ewood Park last week.

The 17-year-old scored one and saw his shot rebound to be turned in for Preston’s second goal in a 4-2 defeat.

Young players being in a first-team environment is something Deepdale boss Alex Neil views as important, hence his willingness to loan PNE’s starlets rather than having them in a youth set-up.

And Walker is enjoying learning about senior football.

He said: “The men’s game is a lot better. It’s teaching me, not the dirty side of the game, but the mental side of the game and the physical side.

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“You are not playing against 17, 18-year-old boys – you’re playing against men, strong men.

“The pitches aren’t great but the way the players play and how hard they are and tough they are on young players, it’ll help me a lot.

“It’s not easier when coming back to the youth team, but it has helped me a lot in getting chances and scoring. I think by going out on loan it’s improved me as a player.

“Points matter, which is something we do in the youth team – we do want to win week in week out, we do still want to get to the top of the league – but it’s tougher in the men’s league.

“They’re getting paid for it, they need to win or the manager will just get new players in.

“It’s different to what I’ve been used to but it’s good for me to improve and to look at new surroundings.”