Josh Earl wants to continue developing at Preston North End next season following his fine campaign with the club’s academy.
The 18-year-old marked the final game of his scholarship by captaining the Lilywhites and scoring a superb free-kick on Tuesday afternoon – albeit in an otherwise disappointing match as the youth team suffered a 5-2 away loss at the hands of Carlisle United.
Despite that, the North End youngster looked back on the season as a positive one following several successes, including a run to the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals, a more recent title win while on work experience with Lancaster City and a professional contract offer at Deepdale.
“I feel like I’ve developed a lot since last season, especially going out to Lancaster – that’s helped me a lot,” he said. “It’s developed me a lot and I feel as though it’s getting me ready for the future.
“This season has been really good for me. Getting far in the FA Youth Cup has been good, we’ve not done as well in the league as we would have hoped, but I feel like I’ve developed really well and going out and winning the league with Lancaster was a very good achievement and good experience.
“At first, it [playing senior football] was tough, but you get used to it and you adapt to it. It’s just good to have gone out and got myself ready for man’s football in the future so I can progress and be ready for next season.
“I just want to push on and do as well as I can. I don’t want to just be a number in the squad, I want to push on and prove myself. And like this season, I want to develop more and play more man’s football and carry on.”
Speaking about Tuesday’s game, Earl felt all the players had to try to learn from the experience, although he also reserved praise for the U16s who came into the side in difficult circumstances. North End led 1-0 for the first hour but had been reduced to ten men before half-time.
“It’s a very disappointing way to end the season. We’ve just got to learn from it, it’s all a learning curve and we’ve just got to improve from that. It’s difficult, but we’ve always got to fight to keep the 1-0 lead or if anything, keep the draw at 1-1.
“We let a few sloppy goals in but we’ve just got to learn from it and next year the boys have got to learn from that, I’ve got to learn from that and we all just have to push on.
“It was good to score a free-kick, but also we had a few younger lads playing today and they all did well when they came on. It’s always difficult when you come in and you’ve not trained with the lads all week and you’re sort of just brought in for a game, so it’s hard for them. They all coped well, they all worked hard and I think they’ll have a good side next year.”