Senior Preston North End debut for striker Joe Rodwell-Grant was just reward says PNE boss

Joe Rodwell-Grant’s elevation to the first-team picture at Preston North End has been fully merited, says Deepdale coach Frankie McAvoy.

Saturday, 14th August 2021, 8:00 am

The 18-year-old striker made his competitive debut as a substitute in Tuesday’s 3-0 win at Mansfield Town in the Carabao Cup.

He had been an unused sub on the opening day against Hull City, with him coming off the bench to score in PNE’s penultimate pre-season game at Wigan a fortnight ago.

Local lad Rodwell-Grant signed his first professional contract in the summer after coming through North End’s academy.

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North End boss Frankie McAvoy with Joe Rodwell-Grant at Mansfield on Tuesday night

He didn’t go to Scotland with the senior squad as some of the younger players did but during the remainder of the pre-season steadily caught McAvoy’s eye.

McAvoy told the Lancashire Post: “I think Joe has got a big future in the game, now it’s about developing and nurturing him, as it is with the other younger lads.

“He’s come in and done well enough in training and in the games for me to put him in.

“I was delighted that I could put him on a sub at Mansfield, Joe has done himself no harm whatsoever.

“He’s going to be one who can benefit from us entering the Central League and having a reserve side.

“A good way to nurture the lads is to have them around the first-team environment and have those reserve games.”

PNE do seem to be trying to strengthen the pathway between the academy and their first-team set-up of late.

Rodwell-Grant was one of four players to graduate from the academy in the summer and sign pro terms, together with Lewis Coulton, Jacob Holland-Wilkinson and Ollie Lombard.

On Thursday night, Lewis Leigh signed a three-year pro contract, having spent all of pre-season with McAvoy’s first-team squad.

Midfielder Leigh’s deal runs until 2024 and comes just as he has gone into the second year of his scholarship.

Arsenal, Everton, West Ham and Leicester had shown an interest in him but Leigh chose to commit to his home-town club – he lives in Ashton and attended Ashton Community Science College .

First-year scholars Noah Mawene and Josh Seary have already agreed to sign pro deals when they turn 17.

Said McAvoy: “What we have to recognise is that players develop at different stages and different ages.

“The important thing is to give them that time, there are peaks and troughs – they will have good and bad times.

“We have to show belief and faith in them to try and get them through the other end.

“Then they have to have that belief, hope and trust in themselves that they are good enough.”