After making a one-month work experience move to Lancaster City earlier this week, Preston North End scholar Josh Earl is excited by the prospect of playing senior football.
The 18-year-old has shone for the U18s this season, playing a key role in the run to the FA Youth Cup quarter-final, but will now link up with the North End academy’s head of education – Phillip Brown – also the Lancaster manager.
“I’m just excited to get a bit of experience of man’s football,” he told PNE.com. “I’ve enjoyed playing for the U18s for the past two years now, but I think it’s a good time to step up and try to challenge myself a bit more.
“He [Brown] coached me at U15s and we had quite a good run with him. I enjoyed being coached by him and liked all of his training sessions, so it will be good to work with him again.
“Obviously I wanted to stay for the cup runs and get as far as we could, but I think now the time is right to go out, step it up and try to get a bit of experience outside of U18s football.”
Earl has already played at Lancaster’s Giant Axe stadium at the start of the campaign. A Lilywhites XI were 3-0 winners over the Dolly Blues in August, with Earl coming on for the final half-hour where he provided the assist for Simon Makienok to score the visitors’ second goal.
Academy teammate Dylan Davidson also had a work experience spell at Giant Axe in October and November earlier this term, so Earl knows plenty about his new side for the next month.
“It’s a good ground. We played there in a pre-season friendly with the U23s and it was a good experience of playing there in the stadium.
“I’m expecting quicker and tougher games really. I know that Dylan enjoyed it, so I’m just going there with my eyes open. I’d just like to learn, experience new things and enjoy it.
“I just want to try to get the professional contract. I think doing this and proving that I can play man’s football, and can play well in man’s football, will stand me in good stead.”
The second-year scholar has mainly played at left-back and left-wing this season, but recently had a run as the team’s lone striker and has even filled in at centre-back when required. He’s scored four times this term, with two of those strikes coming in the FA Youth Cup run.
With Lancaster currently second in the Evo-Stik First Division North and only behind leaders Farsley Celtic on goal difference with seven games remaining, Earl believes his versatility could pay off as he aims to help the Dolly Blues to a title win.
“I’ve enjoyed playing in lots of different positions this year because it opens up your options for when you’re playing, so I can play in one or two different positions. I’m just happy to play anywhere – as long as I’m on the pitch, I don’t mind where I play.
“What I’m most excited about is trying to help Lancaster win the league. I’m going to try my best to aim for that and try to help them get as many points as they can to try to win the league.
“It’s going to be difficult to win all seven, and it’s going to be a challenge to win the league, but I think it is possible. I just want to work hard and try to make a positive impact in all the games that I play in.”