Rovers’ exciting prospect Ash Phillips has already signed a professional contract with the club, we can reveal.

England Under-17s star Phillips has trained regularly with the first-team squad, despite only turning 16 in June, and was part of the squad that travelled to Middlesbrough last month.

Phillips was announced as having signed a two-year scholarship in the summer, having made his Under-18s last season when aged just 15.

He was part of the England Under-17s side that made the final of the Syrenka Cup earlier this month, and has won rave reviews from Tony Mowbray who has promoted him to train with the first-team group as he continues a rapid rise through the ranks.

Phillips is unable to be on professional terms due to his age, however, the Lancashire Telegraph has learned when signing scholarship terms the defender also agreed to a long-term contract at the club which will kick in next summer.

Mowbray believes Phillips will go on to become a ‘mega footballer’ worth ‘£20m or £30m’ and is a prospect that Rovers must maximise the talent of.

The club’s Category One Academy has continued to produced players for the first-team, the 2-2 draw with Luton Town the 550th consecutive league fixture, dating back to January 2008, in which Rovers have included at least one Academy graduate.

The Under-18s have enjoyed a fine start to the campaign, topping the Premier League table with four wins out of four and 18 goals scored in the process.

Mowbray has continued to support the Academy by handing opportunities to several prospects, and believes it has to be a productive source of players given the £3m investment each year.

He said: “The owners put a lot of money into the Academy, it costs a lot of money, and there should be a kick-back off that, we should be developing our own players and producing footballers who can affect games.

“I like a lot of the young players, it’s just the balance of liking young players and having to win football matches.

“You can really like a footballer but he might not be ready to compete in the Championship and help you win matches, but that’s not to say he’s not going to be a good player at some stage in his career.”