Academy Coach Andy Fensome believes that tonight’s match against Mansfield Town is a great opportunity for the players to show their long term worth to PNE.
North End kick off their FA Youth Cup 2013/14 campaign with a home tie against The Stags at Deepdale and Fensome is hoping to see some of the players involved impress enough to earn a similar opportunity to the one Academy midfielder Josh Brownhill has recently grasped.
“The boys can see there is a route to the first team,” explained Fensome, in an exclusive interview with PNE.Com.
“They can see that their teammates, people they have played alongside and people that have just been a year in front of them are actually getting to the first team, playing first team football.
“It is achievable if you are good enough and you work hard enough.
“With Josh going this year it has been fantastic for the lads that are in the squad now to see him progress.
“I think the managers comments after the game where Josh made his first team debut was basically that he didn’t know a lot about Josh originally, he played in the U21s game and the reserve games, he has done well and got the opportunity which has now led to him going and playing for the first team.
“So Josh being a mate of most of the youth team squad, the lads see what goes on, they can see Josh has made it in a very short space of time.
“He has played exceptionally well and they can see that hard work and graft will get rewards.”
Much like the players, Fensome and the rest of the backroom staff in the Academy setup are excited by the prospect of tonight’s match under the Deepdale lights and the former North End player is hoping to see the next crop of future Lilywhites embrace the atmosphere, surroundings and everything else that goes with the game come 7pm.
Fensome added: “It is an opportunity for the players to play on Deepdale and to play under the floodlights which is always a good occasion and the boys are really looking forward to the game at the moment.
“We will be asking them to harness there adrenaline and the excitement of going to play, but at the end of the day they are young professionals and are full time footballers and we are expecting them to hopefully go ahead and embrace that and hopefully enjoy themselves playing.
“Hopefully that will lead to them playing with confidence and getting the result they deserve.
“The boys have been working extremely hard in training this week.
“We went to watch Mansfield last week, myself and Andy Livingstone, we have given them a little bit of inside knowledge, hopefully how we think Mansfield are going to play, so we have told them that there is nothing to be scared of.
“They are playing at Deepdale and they should embrace that experience, enjoy that experience and go ahead and just play your football.
“If you work hard and play like I expect them to do and how I know they can do, then that is a great experience for them and hopefully they will enjoy it.”
With the exception of a couple of long term absentees, Academy manager Nick Harrison has a full squad to select from for the first round match and as well as being cheered on by the North End crowd, the rest of the Academy teams will also be in attendance to give those players a sneak peak of what their futures could hold in store for them if they apply themselves correctly.
Fensome continued: “Everybody is fighting fit, we have had a good week.
“Training has gone well and we are looking forward to the game.
“Everything has been building up to Friday night and as I said, hopefully they can all just go ahead and enjoy that and everyone who is in the squad or around the squad, whether you are fully fit or you are injured, is going to hopefully join together to help get the result we need.
“For the boys that are in and around the Academy who are 14, 15 year old lads who can almost touch youth team level, it is going to be good for them hopefully to see us play for the first time this year.
“See the boys that they know as teammates from last year and the year before, see them go and compete and hopefully it will inspire them to say that they want that scholarship and if they work hard enough and are good enough, then they will get their opportunity in the youth team maybe next year or the year after.”
You can cheer on the boys tonight at Deepdale against Mansfield Town from the Sir Tom Finney Stand which is open.
Preston North End are offering free admission to all Lilywhites season ticket holders and non-holders can enjoy the action for only £2.
Kick-off is at 7pm.
If you can’t make it to the game, you can listen live on PNE Player.
Anthony Wareing will be describing the action live with guest analyst Graeme Atkinson from 6.55pm.