GIVEN the wealth of options Owen Coyle possesses on the wings, with Elliott Bennett, Craig Conway, Liam Feeney and Ben Marshall all vying for places, Connor Mahoney may have to be patient in his attempts to break into the Blackburn Rovers starting line-up.

But it is clear the 19-year-old is in Rovers boss Coyle’s thinking after featuring in three of his team’s six pre-season friendlies in the lead up to Saturday’s Championship opener at home to Norwich City.


Mahoney was given 27 minutes against SV Ried, played the full 60 minutes against Bury, before coming on for the final 14 minutes of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with FC Girona at Ewood Park.

Twenty-four hours later he played the full 90 minutes as a young Rovers side, featuring just three other players with any sort of first-team experience, went down to a 1-0 defeat at Notts County.

It was only the second time Mahoney had featured for the club’s newly named under-23 team this summer.

That means Damien Johnson has not been able to monitor his progress at close quarters since making his Football League debut at the back end of last season.

But Johnson, the Academy graduate who now runs the under-23s with David Dunn, knows Mahoney will give himself a chance if he continues to listen and learn.

“He’s been a lot with the first-team squad over pre-season so we’ve have limited exposure to how he’s done,” said Johnson, whose side continue their preparations for the Premier League 2 season with a friendly at AFC Darwen tonight (7.45pm kick-off).

“Connor is a good lad but he still has a lot to learn. It’s a big step up even from today (against League Two Notts County).

“Connor has great ability and he knows what he’s got to work on, and he’s always willing to listen and learn and, as long as he keeps his focus on improving, and working on those things he needs to improve on, he’ll give himself a chance.

“When that is, that’s down to the manager, that’s not for me to say, but he’s got the right work ethic and he goes the right way about it.

“He’s got to keep working hard and when he gets an opportunity, he’s got to be ready to take it.

“He’s a confident lad, Connor, but he knows there’s areas of his game that need to improve, so he just needs to keep focused on those.

“We’ve got some really good wide players at the club. The manager has got some really good options and Connor might have to be patient. But that’s not down to me, that’s down to the manager.”

Mahoney became the third youngest player in Rovers’ history when he stepped off the bench to make his debut in the FA Cup loss at Manchester City in January 2014.

He had to wait until April to make his second appearance for his hometown club and Johnson said: “You’re always told, ‘making your debut is okay, it’s staying there, and playing 50, 70, 100 games’. That’s the difficult bit.

“Consistency and level of performance every week –that’s the sort of stuff Connor is working on.

“He’s got to keep working hard and keep level-headed about it all and, the great thing about this club is that you do get opportunities, so when that comes if it comes you just have to be ready.”

Entry at Darwen tonight is £5 for adults, £3 for over-65s and £1 for under-12s.