Mikey O’Neill admitted it’s a dream come true to make his professional debut for Preston North End after almost a decade with the club.
The 17-year-old, who has come through the ranks at PNE, was handed his first appearance in senior football by manager Ryan Lowe in the victory over Queens Park Rangers.
Coming on as a 90th-minute substitute to replace goalscorer Cameron Archer, the forward featured in the closing stages of the game which saw North End win a third successive home match.
“I’m just delighted to be honest,” Mikey said to iFollow PNE. “Ever since I signed for the club nearly ten years ago, I’ve just dreamt of this moment and finally it’s come true so I’m just so happy.
“You just work hard every day hoping that this day comes and the other thing is I’m happy that I’ve done it while I’m still 17.
“I’m still a kid really and it’s just I’ve dreamt of it and it’s now come true so I’m very pleased.”
Mikey has previously been involved with the first team, warming up with the squad in the home game against Huddersfield Town earlier in the season.
Training with the side at Euxton earlier this week, Mikey found out on Friday after training that he would be involved in the squad.
He said: “The gaffer just pulled me and said ‘be at Deepdale for one’ so I turned up and there the teamsheet was, and it said O’Neill on the bench so yeah I was really happy when I saw that.
“It’s very good because the last few times I’ve been around the squad in the warm ups and that.
“It’s been a bit frustrating that I’ve never made the bench, but today in front of the home crowd as well, and to come on and make my debut is just really good and it’s good that it finally happened.”
PNE were looking comfortable in the latter stages of the game, and manager Ryan Lowe was keen to give the youngster an opportunity to feature.
He had headed down the touchline to warm up even before any indication from the gaffer that he would be called upon.
Mikey added: “I thought it’s better that I get under his nose and as I came back in he saw me and said ‘stay back out because you’ll be coming on’ and I got the call and I went on.
“It was a bit surreal to be honest. All the fans clapping, so loud, you can’t get used to that playing on a Saturday for the youth team, and it’s just surreal.
“I’ve had a taste of it. I got on there and I felt pretty comfortable straight away to be honest so I feel like I can handle it so I just want more.
“I want more minutes this season, hopefully I do get more minutes in the back end of a game, but we’ll see.”
Away from the first team, Mikey has been a regular feature for the U19s in their remarkable season, with Nick Harrison’s side top of their league and with a chance to be crowned champions in Tuesday’s game against Port Vale.
Mikey said: “Going into this season we did feel confident that it was going to be a strong season, but it’s kind of surpassed our expectations with the runs we’ve been going on, so many wins.
“Obviously the Youth Cup was a bit of a downer, but we kept our focus on the league and the cup final.
“Tuesday’s a big day in Port Vale. Hopefully I’ll be involved as well so if we do win I’ll get to share the moment with my mates.”