Everton’s academy is one of the very best in the country when it comes to integrating young players at senior level.
Whether it’s Wayne Rooney or the likes of Leon Osman and Ross Barkley, it’s rare to find an Everton squad that doesn’t include an academy graduate.
One of the most underrated players to come through the ranks is the aforementioned Osman.
He quietly went about his business in the middle of the park, being compared to Andres Iniesta and earning two England caps.
The midfielder was a loved figure at Goodison Park but they’ve been missing a tidy player of his character in their midfield.
That’s not to say their central areas aren’t strong, however. In Allan, they have a player of similar stature who also isn’t afraid to get stuck in.
Though, Marcel Brands and co could find a legitimate Osman heir in a young midfielder at Preston North End.
The Toffees have been linked with a move for 17-year-old Lewis Leigh this summer but they face plenty of competition with Arsenal, Leicester and West Ham also in the race.
He’s yet to earn his senior debut for Preston but has been included among the first-team squad previously.
Evidently very highly rated, the teenager has some of the key qualities that set Osman apart from his peers at Everton.
After starring in the FA Youth Cup last season, Leigh was given an outstanding review by Lancashire Live:
“Clearly a fearless midfield player who plays with his heart on his sleeve. When the tide of the game swung the way of Lincoln, Leigh stood up to the fight, maintained a high-level of energy in his play and got stuck in.”
Immediately you can see where the Osman comparisons come from. The diminutive midfielder won 2.4 tackles per game throughout the 2012/13 campaign, proving to be a combative force.
Lancashire Live added: “Not an overly imposing figure physically, he [Leigh] makes up for that with his aggression and hunger on the pitch. Not afraid of a tackle, to try the ambitious pass or take the shot on.”
Osman was by no means a tall figure but used his frame sensibly to dominate opponents before bursting forward into space.
Leigh very much appears to be a comparable player and although he’s not played any first-team football yet, the future looks very bright for him.