Mikey O’Neill is relishing the rest of the campaign as he eyes the league and cup double with the U19s, while looking to push himself further into the first team picture.
The attacker, in the second year of his scholarship with Preston North End, has been a regular feature for Nick Harrison’s side so far this season, and he has recently earned himself chances with the senior squad.
Ryan Lowe has included him in training at Euxton over the past few weeks and the 17-year-old even got the chance to warm up with the first team at Deepdale before the Championship game against Huddersfield Town last month.
Speaking to iFollow PNE, Mikey said: “It’s been really good over the last few weeks. Obviously I got to warm up with the squad and I’ve been training here quite a bit.
“It’s good because it’s getting me ready for the first team environment, and it’s helping me with the next step getting used to what it’s about up here, so I’m feeling more comfortable with it all.
“It was really good [to warm up with the squad]. It came out of the blue to be honest but once I was there I enjoyed it so much and hopefully that’s just the start.
“Hopefully next time I’ll be able to get on the bench and we’ll see where we go from there.”
Away from the first team, Mikey has rarely been outside of the starting XI for the U19s, playing a key role in their remarkable season.
Nick Harrison’s team have won nine of their last ten games in all competitions, and they currently sit three points behind league leaders Carlisle United with three games in hand on the Cumbrians.
The U19s are also into the northern semi-final of the Youth Alliance Cup, due to be played against Burton Albion on Tuesday 15th March at 1pm at Springfields.
“This season’s been so good,” added Mikey. “Last season was a bit disappointing with where we finished, but this season we’ve come back a different team.
“New players, with the younger lads, it’s just been really good. We’re doing really well in the league, I can’t remember the last time we lost in the league or the cup. We’re looking to win the double hopefully.
“We’re all keeping note of that. On our board outside we’ve got the league table so we’re always having a look at that, seeing what’s happening, and that’s a great incentive for us to go out and be confident.
“Then we’ve got the semi-final coming up and hopefully we can win that, get into the final and win that as well.”
While pleased with his own development, Liverpool-born Mikey feels there is plenty of talent within the current crop coming through at Springfields.
He said: “I think I’ve played with three different age groups and this one this year tops it to be honest.
“We’ve got good players all around the team, from the defence to the attack, and if you look at the clean sheets and the goals scored, it should excite them [the fans].
“Hopefully they can come down in the later rounds. I think it’s at home the semi-final, so it’ll be good if they can come down to watch it.”
There were plenty of fans in attendance on Tuesday afternoon to watch the goalless draw against Fleetwood Town in the Central League at Euxton.
Mikey started and played the full 90 minutes in that game, one he felt PNE did enough to win.
“It was a bit scrappy throughout the game,” he added. “In the second half we came out a lot better and for about half an hour we dominated it, but we couldn’t get the goal.
“I think we were unlucky not to get maybe one or two pens but that’s just the way it goes and hopefully next time we can get the win.
“For me and the other young lads it’s really good because it gets us playing against better players, older players, and playing with people like Hunts [Paul Huntington] and Josh Murphy, so it gets me ready for the next level.
“As you see you’ve got Ryan Lowe there and Marshy [Mike Marsh] watching you, so you want to get under their nose and impress them. As I found out if you do impress them then you do get your chances.”
You can watch Mikey's full interview for free on iFollow PNE above.