Manuel Pellegrini, Pep Guardiola and now Alex Neil impress Manchester City starlet and new Preston loan man Brandon Barker
Preston North End new boy Brandon Barker knows all about working under some of the top managers in the game.
Having been given a first-team chance Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City, the flying winger’s development at the Etihad Stadium has continued under Pep Guardiola.
The 21-year-old arrives at Deepdale hoping to continue his footballing education with another loan spell after impressing at Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership last term.
“I was with Pellegrini for about two years,” said Barker, who has made one senior appearance for City in a 5-1 FA Cup defeat to Chelsea in 2016.
“He was the one who integrated me with the first team.
“I was sad to see him go, he was the one who gave me a chance.
“Pep’s come in and done a wonderful job though.
“The first year that he came I was with him a lot.
“He just didn’t think I was ready so I had to go out on loan and it was the same again this time around.
“I had a sit down with him and he told me what he was thinking.
“You have to respect that because he knows better than anyone.
“He’s a top guy to deal with. He knows so much about the game. You can see that from his record.
“Maybe next year I’ll be ready.”
He may only be days into his North End career, but Barker has clearly been impressed by his new coach, Alex Neil, and is hoping that like the bigger names the Scotsman can be a big influence on his career.
“This manager gives youth a chance,” said the England youth international, who has been joined at Deepdale by City team mate Lukas Nmecha.
“It’s probably one of the most appealing things about coming here.
“I got the call that there was some interest and as soon as I met the manager I knew that I wanted to play for him.
“It was quite quick. It happened over the space of five days I think.
“It seems like a perfect fit for me.
“My team is Manchester City overall but this year it’s Preston, so Manchester City goes to the back of my mind and I’m all about Preston.”
Barker was no stranger to a some players when he reported for his first day of training at Springfields.
Academy derbies mean he regularly came up against former Manchester United men Josh Harrop and Ben Pearson while Ryan Ledson was also a former foe when he came through the ranks at Everton.
“I know Josh and Ben well, we have the mini derby against each other.” said Barker.
“That’s always good and they’re top players, Ben’s probably given me a kick along the way!
“I’ve known Ryan Ledson for a while from playing against him.
“It’s good to see some familiar faces.”
Born Manchester to a family of split loyalties, Barker joined City at the age of eight and has been making his way out on loan in recent years.
First came a few games with Rotherham in the Championship before seasons at first partner club NAC Breda in 2016-17 and then Neil Lennon’s Hibs.
Playing in the Dutch Second Division was certainly an experience to make any young footballer grow up quickly.
“It was very different,” admits Barker, who scored two goals in 22 appearances in Holland.
“City have a link-up with the club so there were me and five others who went out there.
“It was a really good life experience and I grew up a lot moving away from home. The standard was good, if a bit slow. It’s very technical which is always good for a player like me.
“It was a step I needed to take at the time though.”
The speedy wide man was then a hit north of the border.
His performances as he scored twice in 30 appearances meant Lennon was keen to take him once again before Preston came calling.
“I really enjoyed my time there,” said Barker.
“The manager and everyone was great with me and the team had a really good year after being promoted to finish fourth.
“That got them into Europe which was a really good achievement.”
He had originally hoped to land in the Championship 12 months ago and is now delighted to get the chance.
“This is the next step for me,” Barker said.
“I wanted to play in the Championship last year but I didn’t get the opportunity but I’m delighted I’ve got it now.
“Everyone wants to play in the Championship now, especially when you are young.
“Some people maybe aren’t ready but I feel like I am ready for this next step and hopefully I’ll have a good year.”
While he enjoyed the challenge in Scotland and playing against Rangers and Celtic amongst others, Barker is expecting a step up in class this season.
“Don’t get me wrong, Scotland wasn’t easy but I’m expecting this to be even more difficult again,” he said.
“I think the football and the opposition will be a lot tougher than last year. It’s just getting better and better every year.
“Any team can beat any other. That’s the kind of thing you want to be a part of where every game is a massive game.
“I’ve joined a good side and there’s a good buzz and hopefully we can go on and do well.”
Barker’s first challenge will be nailing down a spot out wide with competition coming from Tom Barkhuizen, Callum Robinson and Daryl Horgan.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge to get into the team,” he said.
“They are some top players here which you could see last year as they nearly got to the play-offs.
“They didn’t in the end but hopefully we can achieve similar things this year and go one better.”
If he does get in the team, boss Neil has tipped his new recruit to be one of those who can get the fans out of their seats.
“That’s the type of player that I am,” Barker said.
“I want to create things, I want to help my team-mates score, I want to score myself.
“Hopefully I can help the team with goals, assists, creating chances and just being on the front foot.”