Preston North End in Numbers: How Alex Neil's faith in younger players compares to the rest of the Football League
Alex Neil regularly speaks of his pride in the endeavours of what is a largely young Preston North End side made up of emerging players.
In an injury-hit campaign it is a core of rising talents that have helped steer the Lilywhites slowly but surely away from the wrong end of the table having also been key as they came so close to the play-offs last season.
Just how much Neil relies on players at the younger end of the spectrum is underlined by how North End compare to the rest of the Championship and the Football League according to @prospectwatch1, Twitter’s resident Under 23 scout.
In terms of minutes played in the league this season by players aged 23 and under, PNE are second in the second tier on 9,031 minutes.
Swansea lead the way by some distances on 11,480 with 8,949 placing Brentford third.
Bristol City are fourth on 8,310 and Wigan fifth with 7,483.
The fewest comes from Bolton on 1,417 with Wanderers also bottom of the Football League as a whole.
Across the three divisions, PNE are 12th when lined up against the 71 other clubs.
League Two Yeovil are way out in front on 13,245 minutes which is almost 2,000 clear of second-placed Swansea.
It comes as no surprise to see Neil’s men so high in the standings.
The PNE boss has made clear since arriving at Deepdale that he is not afraid to turn to younger players if he thinks they are good enough.
Josh Earl was thrown in at the deep end in his first year as a professional while Jordan Storey has looked right at home this campaign after swapping League Two for the Championship when moving from Exeter.
In terms of minutes played by an individual, 23-year-old Alan Browne leads the way on 1,704.
Last year’s player of the year is followed by Tom Barkhuizen, 25, on 1,601.
Then come three more 23-year-olds in Callum Robinson, 1,582, Ben Davies, 1,541, and Ben Pearson, 1,451.
Given their undoubted talents, PNE’s hope will be that this crop stays together in the long term.
While they are still at the younger end in terms of age, the advantage that North End have over other clubs is that these players cannot be described as inexperienced.
They all have a stack of Championship games under their belts over the last few years and by and large the good news is that they appear to be going from strength-to-strength at Deepdale.