After being named Scholar of the Year, Mikey O’Neill admitted that the 2021/22 season has surpassed all of his previous expectations.
In the second year of his scholarship, the attacker was hoping for a better campaign than his first, having finished fifth in the league and with five goals to his name.
It’s been a completely different story this term, coming out with trophies in the Youth Alliance League and Cup, and he’s netted 11 in those competitions.
On top of that, Mikey has made three appearances for the first team, as well as featuring regularly for the reserves in the Central League, and he received his Scholar of the Year award on the pitch after coming on as an 82nd-minute substitute against Middlesbrough on the final day of the season.
“I’m delighted,” he told iFollow PNE. “Coming into this season it was obviously something I had my eyes on.
“I feel really good that I’ve managed to achieve it and win the trophy.
“Last season was obviously a bit disappointing but coming into this season I kind of felt like I was going to do well, but what’s happened has just kind of surpassed it.
“Three appearances in the Championship, so many titles with the team of course, and then to win Scholar of the Year, it has surpassed it [expectations] to be fair.
“I’ve run out of words to describe it to be honest. It’s been a dream to be honest and long may it continue.”
The 17-year-old has already had his contract extended at Deepdale for another year, while also being offered professional terms.
He was quick to catch the eye of Ryan Lowe after his appointment and the manager has often brought him up to train with the first team at Euxton, and Ryan handed Mikey his professional debut in April at Deepdale against Queens Park Rangers.
Mikey added: “First off the manager’s been unbelievable to be honest. The way he’s treated me since I’ve come in, I can’t fault it and I thank him for that.
“And then the players, when I’m coming on they don’t treat me like a young lad, they just treat me like a normal player, and make me feel welcome and comfortable once I get out there, so I’m thanking them as well.
“You feel a bit nervous as you’re coming on, but when I get on it does just feel like a normal game and again it felt like that today [against Middlesbrough]. I got into it quickly and it was good.”
Manager Lowe has already confirmed that Liverpool-born Mikey will be involved in the first team’s preparations for the new campaign, and that’s something the attacker is already looking forward to, as well as getting more minutes in competitive action.
“I might have a week off just to relax but trust me I’ll be straight back on it running and getting ready for next season,” he said.
“I’ll be coming back in and trying to hit the ground running as early as possible to try and get around it, cement my place but we’ll see what happens.
“As I said, I might have a week off, but I’ve already got it in my mind now. I’ve had a taste of it again today [against Middlesbrough].
"Last week was my first taste of playing for the first team, and this was my first taste of playing at Deepdale and getting a decent chunk, so I’m ready and I want more.”
You can watch Mikey's interview for free above or on iFollow PNE.