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North End Hand Pro Contracts To Four Apprentices

North End Hand Pro Contracts To Four Apprentices

Preston North End have awarded four professional contracts to their academy youngsters, with Lewis Coulton, Jacob Holland-Wilkinson, Oliver Lombard and Joe Rodwell-Grant all agreeing one-year deals, with the option of a further 12 months.

None of the quartet have featured for the first team yet, although Holland-Wilkinson has been an unused substitute on many occasions, while Coulton and Rodwell-Grant have been included in the matchday 20.

North End Scholar of the Year Holland-Wilkinson told the club website: “It has been a dream year. I have been given a lot of opportunities and it has been a blessing this year. I have still had time to play for the youth team, as well as coming up to Euxton; it is something I have thoroughly enjoyed.

“I have wanted to thank Alex Neil for a long time, because he was the one who put his faith in me to come up and deliver with the first team and now, I just need to work hard, continue to progress and hopefully get a chance next year.

“Nick (Harrison) and everyone at youth development, even down to the coaches at the younger age groups, from Under-14s when I came in, they have all been great with me, all shown me support and now I can say ‘thank you’ and try and show what I can do.

“I now go back to the bottom of the ladder and start that climb again and that is something that keeps me going. I want to try and get to the top of my game and that is something I will be working really hard for.

“I will be putting 100% in over the summer. Everyone will see it as a nice little break, but for me it is a time to work hard and come back in and hopefully smash next season.”

Striker Rodwell-Grant said: “It has been a long journey. I have been at the club since I was 11-years-old and I have worked my way through. I have been here about seven years and I have now earned a professional contract and I am over the moon with it.

“I have envisioned myself earning a professional contract since I was little, especially at Preston North End, because I support the club. It is my hometown and I put the hard work in and now I have got here, but I need to reach new levels.

“All my mates are Preston fans, my dad is, all my family and siblings are, so it means a lot to me to get my professional contract. All the way through school, all the lads have talked to me about this and it is just a dream come true.

The 18-year-old gained experience of men’s football at Chorley and Bamber Bridge this season, which he believes has helped him take the next step in his development.

He continued: “Men’s football is like the first team here, it is about the three points. Youth team football is about developing players, but men’s football is a different atmosphere.

“When I was at Chorley, it was intense and we needed to win, especially in the FA Cup, when I came on against York for 30 minutes. That was a really good experience, which you don’t really get in 18s football.

“Coming back down to the Under-18s was really good, because I could bring things I had learned from the men’s football down to youth team football and I really benefitted from that.

“I have had a really good season, but now is the time to get my head down and work really hard and try and catch the manager’s eye when I get back into pre-season.”

Scotland youth international Coulton said: “I have been a scholar for two years, but I have been at the club since I was 11-years-old and it started from there. You have to train hard and work hard every day and that’s how you get to here.

“It has taken a lot of hard work and I have to thank the coaches that have been at the club, they have helped me throughout and that’s how you get the opportunity.

“They are a top set of coaches. From Under-11s through to Under-16s, you have a different coach every year and then for the last two years I have had the same coaches and I can’t thank them enough. As an individual and as a team, you learn different things every day, which has helped me.

“Four of us is quite a lot. Last year there was only Ethan Walker, so for four of us it really helps; you have lads your age you can speak to. The older lads are great and they speak to you, but to have players your age, it makes you feel a bit more comfortable.

“A few of us have been involved in matchday squads this year and that is a big help. It means we have been around the lads already and you know what it is like. I already know the structure of things, which really helps.

“I want to hit the ground running in July. It is not really a time to be off, we still have to work hard and carry on working – it won’t really stop for me, I just have to carry on with my individual plan.”

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Lombard added: “Hopefully I can get in the gym and put a bit of weight on – it will help me develop in men’s football and that can be one of the main things for me. The work starts again now. It is a year’s contract and I have to work hard this year and try and get myself another one.

“This is 100% what you work towards as a young player. It has come and now I need to keep on working hard and keep on getting better and hopefully improving, so that in the future I can challenge for a place in the first team.

“The coaches do a lot for you. They do a lot every day, planning sessions; they are there a lot earlier than us and they have helped me come on, as a person as well, bringing the social side to it, as well as football.

“The last year has been hard. There was a lot of running in pre-season and less football, with only one session a day this year, so it was hard. But it has come to this point now and it is rewarding to have put the hours in and earn that professional contract.”

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