Burnley born footballer earns pro contract at Carlisle United

PRO CONTRACT: Ben McKenna
PRO CONTRACT: Ben McKenna

BURNLEY-born midfielder Ben McKenna has won a one-year professional contract with Carlisle United - and is off to Wembley with the Cumbrians on Sunday.

The second-year YTS agreed a 12-month deal for next season following a successful apprenticeship.

McKenna, who joined the League 1 side aged 16 following a three-day trial after leaving the Burnley Centre of Excellence, has been rewarded with a number of call-ups to the first team squad this season after impressing at Under 18 level - making his debut as a half-time substitute in the 6-0 FA Cup win over Tipton Town, before making his league bow as a late substitute in a 1-0 defeat against Sheffield Wednesday last month.

He was an unused substitute in Carlisle’s 1-0 win over Bournemouth on March 19th, but not in the 18 on Saturday in the dress rehearsal for Sunday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final with Brentford at Wembley.

He is hoping to be back in the squad against the Bees under the arch, although competition is fierce with only five substitutes available in the competition, while United have a virtually fully-fit squad to select from.

There is also good news on the international front, as McKenna, capped at Under 17 and 18 level for Northern Ireland, has now been called up for the Under 19 squad for the double header with Slovakia on April 11th and 13th.

Cumbrians boss Greg Abbott said: “Ben has worked hard and he has been involved in and around the first team squad for a while now.

“He has impressed us and we think that he has earned a chance next season.

“He knows that the hard work starts now and hopefully he will continue to progress and improve when he joins the first team squad full time in July.

“At the moment, Ben is a boy playing in a man’s game. He’s still young and not quite ready, but hopefully he will go on to become a good player for us.”