Preston North End Women have introduced a new Development Squad to bridge the gap between their U16s side and open-age women’s first team squad for the 2022/23 season.
The Development Squad will play in an open-age format after being approved to enter a team into the Lancashire FA Women’s County League Division One, the eighth step of the women’s football pyramid, for the new campaign.
The Development Squad will aim to provide existing players with more opportunities to gain game time, as well as bringing through youth players from the club’s existing younger age group sides, who are transitioning into open-age adult’s football.
Sean Parkinson will head up the management team of the Development Squad, working alongside first team management duo of David Rawcliffe and Nigel Greenwood.
Sean said: “It’s definitely exciting. We’re going into the unknown with this league that we’re going into, we don’t know what to expect or the level of the opposition, but we definitely go into it with optimism.
“Me and Pete Sidebottom [assistant] have been with this group since U9s and there are still three girls that have come right through the age groups with us. There are another three or four who we’ve had for at least five years. About 90 per cent of the squad have come through the junior teams and now into the development team.
“We need to get more competitive and less ‘nice’. We need to have that nous and gamesmanship where you have to be savvy on the pitch, having that edge. It’s a completely different animal playing junior football and adult football.”
Sean will be working closely with first team management duo Nigel Greenwood and David Rawcliffe and is optimistic of the development team’s players having a clear pathway into the first team with them at the helm.
“I couldn’t be happier with David and Nigel there. Their idea of what’s going to happen is aligned with mine, so a lot of the sessions, we will team up and it will be the whole lot of us.
“Everyone will get to know each other and we can learn each other’s strengths and take it into the game.
“Our visions seem to align well with what should happen with the development team and the first team.”
Training has now begun for the development team – alongside the first team – and Sean explained that the more experienced campaigners in the women’s first team have already provided their new, younger team-mates with some invaluable support.
“We will get there, we have a good pre-season programme lined up and the first team have been really helpful, coaching and encouraging them.
“Some of the more experienced players are taking them under their wing to let them know that everything will be fine and that they are good players.”
The women’s first team will continue to play in the North West Women’s Regional League Division One North, the sixth step of the women’s football pyramid, having achieved a fourth-place finish last season.
The club is continuing to recruit new players both for it’s women’s first team and development squad ahead of the new season with a number of vacancies within both squads still to be filled – with goalkeepers a position of priority.
Training for both teams takes place on Thursday evenings at UCLan Sports Arena from 7.30pm until 9pm but interested players must get in touch before attending their first training session.