Why Preston North End should move for Caoimhin Kelleher in January
The report claims that manager Alex Neil is keen to provide current No.1 Declan Rudd with more competition for places between the sticks and he has identified Kelleher as someone who fits the bill.
Preston are placed second in the Championship table after a 1-0 victory over Charlton Athletic at the weekend, thanks to a penalty from Paul Gallagher.
The Lilywhites have made a strong start to the campaign with 8 wins from their first 15 league games and currently boast of the best scoring record in the second-tier, having found the net on 28 occasions already.
While it is too early to jump to a conclusion so early in a 46-game season, there is already a feeling of optimism at Deepdale that the club could well go on to end their long exile from the top-flight of English football with a much-awaited promotion this term.
Meanwhile, Caoimhin Kelleher has finally made his first-team breakthrough for Liverpool in the ongoing campaign, with Jurgen Klopp handing him starts in each of the Reds’ first two EFL Cup fixtures against MK Dons.
The 20-year-old, who rose the youth ranks of Irish club Ringmahon Rangers before joining Liverpool’s academy in 2015, impressed for Neil Critchley’s U-23 side in the Premier League 2 Division 1 for a number of seasons before earning his senior professional bow this term.
Having managed an easy clean sheet against MK Dons, Kelleher leaked 5 goals in the 5-5 draw against Arsenal, although he made some really fine saves against the Gunners and was helpless to prevent a couple of goals from rebounds.
Nevertheless, the Irish starlet emerged as the penalty-shootout hero for Liverpool, keeping out Dani Ceballos’ spot-kick to send the Reds through to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup.
Held in high regard by the youth coaching staff at Anfield, Kelleher is yet to make his mark in the Premier League, but the Reds are probably looking at him as one for the future, with Alisson the undisputed No.1 between the sticks and Adrian more than a handy back-up to call upon in times of crisis.
To that end, a loan move to a lower division outfit, preferably a Championship club, could be a fair settlement for all parties involved.
Despite his prodigious talent and vast potential, Kelleher is still in his formative years as a professional footballer and he needs regular minutes to hone his skills before he is capable of making the step up to the Premier League.
Agreed, the 20-year-old has established himself as a regular fixture in the Premier League 2, but that is hardly a test of his Premier League credentials, and probably any youngster needs professional experience to shine at the highest level.
Hence, a temporary spell at Deepdale could go a long way towards helping him challenge for a substantial role at Anfield in the years to come.
Preston’s No.1 Declan Rudd has drawn criticism at times for his mediocre displays between the sticks, with the 28-year-old managing only 4 clean sheets in 15 league outings, conceding 16 goals. Those numbers aren’t really bad but are not overly impressive either, given that Preston have been quite solid defensively.
Connor Ripley has barely managed to make an impact since his move from Middlesbrough back in January while Callum Roberts, Michael Crowe and Matthew Hudson aren’t really in the first-team fold at the moment.
Although bringing in a Premier League rookie like Kelleher with very little professional experience could be a gamble, the 20-year-old looks like a real talent and Preston should take a page out of Sheffield United’s promotion-winning campaign last time around.
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The Blades won promotion with Man United loanee Dean Henderson as the first-choice between the sticks in the Championship last season and Caoimhin Kelleher could also go on to emulate Henderson’s success if Alex Neil opts to show enough trust in the starlet’s abilities.
All in all, this looks like a move that could pay off handsomely for all parties involved and Preston should definitely go ahead with their interest in the Liverpool academy gem in January.