Preston North End have offered professional contracts to second-year scholars Melle Meulensteen, Callum Roberts and Josh Earl.
The youth team trio all played a key part in the academy’s impressive FA Youth Cup run earlier this season, as they reached the quarter-final stage for the first time since finishing runners-up in 1960.
Meulensteen, a central midfielder who was made U18s captain towards the end of last season, stressed that all of three of them must continue working hard.
“I am delighted,” the 17-year-old told PNE.com. “When me, Josh and Callum were brought into the office and were told that we were getting the contract, it was obviously a great moment for us. Obviously we’ve worked hard for it so hopefully we can push on now and continue working hard.
“I just want to make sure that I’m actually competing with other players in my position, and not going in just to make up the numbers and hopefully trying to get into the team.
“We’ve got to finish the season properly and make sure we carry on playing well. Then I have to get myself ready for pre-season and come back raring to go.
“I’ve just got to make sure that I do the right things in training, to show that I’m actually capable of playing and fitting in with the team.”
Roberts, the sole goalkeeper among the current scholars, said that he and his fellow academy graduates must push on from this point.
“It is a massive achievement. But it just feels like now it’s time to kick on and move up, because I think I’m ready for the next step in what will hopefully be a career in the game.
“The hard work doesn’t stop now, it’s just the next step. I’m looking to get my head down straight away and for me, the start of next season starts now.
“I just want to establish myself and prove that I can be in and around it consistently, push other players on to be better and improve myself going on for the future seasons – trying to get experience in and out of the club.”
“I’ve spoken to Simon Grayson occasionally. We’ve spoken about matches in the FA Youth Cup and after he decided to give the three of us a contract offer, he did say a few kind words about what he has planned for the future and what he thinks of us.”
Earl, a left-sided midfielder or left-back, joined the club’s academy as a nine-year-old and said it was a dream come true to sign on professional terms.
“It’s been my dream for the past ten years. It’s all I’ve worked for because I’ve been here since I was nine-years-old, so I’ve been working towards a professional contract for the past ten years and to finally earn it was a dream come true.
“I just want to try to get into the gaffer’s plans and work as hard as I possibly can to show that I’m not just a young kid still.
“I feel I’ve just matured as a player over the past few years, thanks to Nick [Harrison], Fenners [Andy Fensome] and all the staff at PNE. Due to all the game time and the FA Youth Cup run, I think I’ve just matured as a player, learned week by week and just improved generally as well.
“This is where the hard work starts, because a lot of people get their first-year professional contracts and then just leave football after that. So I need to work even harder now to try to make sure I stay in the game and make a career out of the game.”