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Preston Award Trio Deals But Release Youngest Ever First Team Player

Preston North End have handed professional deals to three of their second year apprentices.

Defender Ben Davies, midfielder Ryan Croasdale and goalkeeper Steven James have all been offered one year deals – with the club also holding the option of adding a further year to those contracts.

Eight youngsters have been shown the door with Brandon Zibaka’s name the most notable on a list that also includes Josh Amis, Jack Sowerby, Alan Scurry, David Kuba-Kuba, Matt Greenwood, Daniel Forbes and Adam Thurston.

For Zibaka it marks a complete turnaround after he became North End’s youngest ever first-team player in September 2011, just three months into his apprenticeship. The youngster who hails from Manchester made three senior appearances for Preston under Phil Brown.

Speaking about the events of this afternoon, Manager Simon Grayson said:

“At this moment in time, the football club isn’t in a position to have a development squad, however, if we had been in the Championship four or five of these players would probably have been given contracts to try and continue their development.

“The players we give contracts to have to affect the first team in the next 6 to 12 months and I feel the ones offered contracts have the best opportunity to do that, although the others can consider themselves very unlucky.”

Davies, Croasdale and James will now look to emulate the success of Will Hayhurst who emerged from the youth ranks this time last year.

Winger, Hayhurst who is still only 19, collected the Outstanding Development award at the club’s end of season dinner last Sunday after making 21 league appearances and scoring 4 goals in his debut season.

“It’s been a great year – I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Hayhurst told the Lancashire Evening Post. “I’ve already set myself some targets for next season. Hopefully I can improve my game and get a regular first-team spot.

“What I’m really grateful for is the help I’ve got from the other lads since joining the squad. Last summer I went into pre-season training with the aim of giving it my best shot and expecting to go out on loan once pre-season was finished.

“So to stay here and make as many appearances as I have done in my first year has been delightful – a dream come true. I need to keep building on what I’ve learned this season – getting more goals and assists is an area I need to improve.

“I was a season ticket holder when I was younger, going to games with my nan, so it’s been a dream come true to play for Preston. This time last year I didn’t even know if I was going to be taken on. I found out the day before the last game of the season.”

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