Steven Pressley says he would rather build a team around Jarrad Branthwaite for the longer term than cash in on Carlisle United’s top young player.

The manager, though, says that if the Blues did sell the defender early into his first-team career they must reinvest the money in the right way.

Branthwaite is attracting more attention after his breakthrough into Pressley’s senior line-up at 17.

His emergence has inevitably raised fears that Carlisle could quickly lose him to a bigger club, with a number of sides having been tracking the Wigton prospect.

Pressley said he wants Carlisle to develop into the kind of club that can withstand offers for their best home-grown players.

But he admitted they are on “page one” of that plan – with the risk that Branthwaite, who has made just six first-team appearances, could follow Liam McCarron and Josh Galloway out of Brunton Park sooner than fans would prefer.

Pressley said: “I’d love to keep the kid here, I really want to keep the kid here, I love working with him, he’s such an exciting talent and somebody eventually I can build a team around.

“We’re really early into this kind of plan, and hopefully in time you have a situation where we have far more Jarrads in the building.

“If it came down to it – and I hope it doesn’t in January – but if it was the case where the club were to sell a player like that, the important thing is how we reinvest the money.

“This becomes more and more important as we move forward.

“We’re almost on page one just now. You want to get this club into a situation where there is no need to sell these young players, and when we do, we’ve got the next one ready to come in.

“This is where we need to get but we’re a long way off.”

Pressley lamented the fact that clubs higher up the divisions can more readily “stockpile” young players than ever before.

He said he was not aware of any current bids for Branthwaite but accepted the big centre-half’s progress will be no secret in the game.

“I’ve been in football long enough to know that the big clubs are all over any young talent that emerges in the manner he has,” he said.

“My job is to manage the situation and eventually build the type of team that we want to build. I certainly hope Jarrad is part of that.

“I want to build a young team here. It’s part of what I want to do, I’m working really hard with my staff on that, we work really hard with the academy and we also have to pick up really good young players outwith the club, the Jon Mellishes, the Mo Sagafs, the Jack Iredales, the Harry McKirdys.

“We have to find them before anybody else. Moving forward that’s an important aspect to this club.”

Pressley said he believes Branthwaite is of good character and will keep his feet on the ground as he comes in for more praise and attention. He also said the young Cumbrian has a “really good family”.

Pressley said Branthwaite and Mellish had excelled in United’s victory over Macclesfield last weekend and both young centre-halves are firmly in the frame to face Dulwich Hamlet in Friday’s televised FA Cup clash.

Experienced vice-captain Byron Webster is back from suspension and Pressley said: “It’s a big decision, of course it is. You know what I think of Byron – he’s an outstanding player and person, so it’s not an easy decision, the one that will have to be made on Friday night.

“But the young players did exceptionally well.”

Pressley said midfielder Jack Bridge has missed training early this week with an ankle problem and he will be assessed ahead of Friday’s cup encounter. Stefan Scougall (hamstring) remains a doubt while Christie Elliott saw a specialist yesterday about his ankle injury.