When the U23s’ line-up was announced for their eight-goal thriller at Derby on Monday evening and the likes of Bradley Dack and Tyrhys Dolan featured, fans could have been forgiven for missing an unfamiliar name on the bench.
Joe Nolan was named among the substitutes for the Premier League 2 fixture, featuring as a trialist, and he came off the bench to score Rovers’ fourth and effectively kill the match off as a contest.
But who is Joe Nolan, and could he link up with the U23s on a permanent basis?
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The former Preston midfielder signed for the Lilywhites at the age of nine, making his way through the ranks to be part of the U18 side last season that were eventually knocked out by Rovers in the FA Youth Cup – scoring once in the tournament against Bristol City.
He was released from Preston this summer, and has since turned out for Northern Premier League outfit Runcorn Linnets, before coming to Rovers for a trial period.
The 18-year-old was also named in the LFE’s ‘The 11’, which acknowledges the football and academic progress of U18 players on apprenticeships at current or former EFL clubs.
Nolan has spent time training with the first team, U23s and U18s, and is expected to feature in a behind closed doors friendly against Huddersfield this afternoon ahead of the Christmas break at U23 level and below.
His goal against Derby County will have done his chances of securing a permanent deal no harm, and with the potential of U23 players heading out on loan – such as the in-form Brad Lyons – Nolan could become a regular part of Billy Barr’s side.
Rovers gave Tyrhys Dolan a chance after his release from Preston, and after his impressive start to life in the Championship, the opportunity is there to give another youngster a chance to prove themselves.