Following the departure of Graham Alexander and Chris Lucketti to Fleetwood Town before Christmas, Preston North End’s youth system has been given a thorough review.
And now, appointments have been made into key positions in trying to ensure the future development of professional players for the Club’s first team.
Nick Harrison, who had worked under both Alexander and former head of youth Dean Ramsdale as assistant director of youth, has been appointed as the Club’s Academy Manager, under the new EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) system.
He will be joined by two new full-time members of staff, but both who are known to the youth set up at the Lilywhites. Former PNE full back, and previous player of the year, Andy Fensome, takes up the role of Professional Development Phase Coach (U18's), having been the Club’s U16 coach for a number of years.
Returning to the Club is Stuart Delaney, who worked under Gary Peters – when the former boss took the role of youth development head in the late 1990s and early noughties. Stuart, who leaves the role as head of youth at local side Accrington Stanley, joins Harrison’s team as Head of Coaching and Youth Development Phase Coach (U12 to U16's).
Also stepping into a new role is another member of the Academy coaching staff, Andy Livingstone. He currently works with our Under 13 age group, and will also take up the role of Head of Academy Recruitment. Andy has worked with the Club for a number of years, as well as working closely with Morecambe’s youth set up.
Speaking about the new structure, Academy Manager Harrison said: "I am delighted to be given the opportunity to take the youth set up of Preston North End forward.
"I have had the chance to work with some very good people in the past and can use what I have learnt from them, along with my own ideas, to try and ensure the very best future for the Club, in terms of producing first team players through our own youth set up.
"The appointments we have made to work alongside me, mean we have a team committed to finding and training the best possible young players from inside our proud City and beyond.
"We want every youngster in Preston and beyond to aspire to want to play for Preston North End. Through Andy Livingstone we hope to build even greater contacts with all the local schools, junior teams and beyond to ensure no stone is left unturned in finding the next generation of heroes our fans will be cheering onto Deepdale on a Saturday afternoon."
On his return to the Club on a full-time basis, former Hereford United assistant boss Fensome added: "It is great to be a part of this fantastic football club on a full-time basis once again.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the U16s at the Academy and I will continue to do that, as it is vital for stability and continuity that those joining us on a full-time basis at 16 are the right players in terms of quality, commitment and ability to learn and develop and I am looking forward to playing a role in developing young and hopefully successful Preston North End footballers."
Paul Newsham, the PNE director who has a strong role within the youth set up praised the work of Harrison, since the departure of Alexander, and said that the new set up had been moulded to ensure the Club could continue to try and produce the likes of Bailey Wright, Will Hayhurst and Ben Davies; players who can join the first team at Deepdale and have an impact.
"The Club’s executive and board spent a lot of time after Graham Alexander and Chris Lucketti’s departure discussing the structure of our Academy going forward.
"Continuity of coaching, staffing and also recruitment were areas we felt were extremely important and the appointments we have made into these four roles are ones we believe can move us forward as an Academy and continue our aims of producing home grown players that can develop into first team regulars for Preston North End."