Alan Biggs on Sheffield United: It’s not always about the talent...but the attitude too

David Brooks of Sheffield Utd leaves Joe Edwards of Walsall during the Checkatrade Trophy match at Bramall Lane Stadium, Sheffield.  Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage
David Brooks of Sheffield Utd leaves Joe Edwards of Walsall during the Checkatrade Trophy match at Bramall Lane Stadium, Sheffield. Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage

There’s a reason why good young players don’t get talked up too much by managers. Take Sheffield United. They have quite a few reasons to go quiet on the publicity front.

One is the weight of expectation on emerging talents after the outstanding success of the Blades’ academy in recent years. Young keeper Aaron Ramsdale is just the latest example, regrettably moving to Premier League Bournemouth but evidently earning the club £1m plus in the process.

Another reason is that by no means all the hopefuls go on to deliver their potential and some have to go backwards to go forwards; for instance, Louis Reed currently as he battles to win back a senior spot.

But it’s another example I’m pointing to here in applying just a note of caution to perhaps the most exciting talent beginning to bloom at Bramall Lane. From first team glimpses this season, David Brooks looks to have the qualities to make a big impact and quite soon.

Derek Geary, United’s Under 18s coach, tells me the 19-year-old attacking midfielder (best position unknown as he can adapt to so many) is now training regularly with Chris Wilder’s first team squad after three appearances in the Checkatrade Trophy and another in the 6-0 FA Cup romp over Leyton Orient.

However, it’s not ability that will mark the dividing line in Brooks’ bid to make the next step. Cue the example of a player not home-grown by United but who arrived at a similar age in a £200,000 transfer from Bradford City in 2004. This player fell short and was shunted on to Southend via loans with Grimsby and Tranmere. Now, a decade on, he’s a regular in the Premier League at 31. His name is Simon Francis – and his top flight career could have started much, much earlier.

Geary recalls: “We all knew he was a talented boy. It was just his attitude. I think he’d say himself that it wasn’t great.

“Some players take their talent for granted. They think it will get them there. Ultimately, it’s hard work and graft; how much desire you’ve got.”

There’s no suggestion that young Brooks, won’t apply himself – but it’s a lesson for all youngsters to heed.

Certainly, the promise is in place.

Says Geary: “David’s a really good player, a technical player, a really exciting player. He can play anywhere on the front line. He likes to find little pockets, he creates chances and he scores goals.

“The reason he’s training with the first team is because the manager thinks he’s good enough. I’m sure Brooksy could come in and do a job no problem and I don’t think Chris would think twice if he needed to bring him in.

“He’s got a lot to learn as well, a long way to go – but he’s given himself a great chance of progressing in the game.”

Let’s hope he takes it. This, for me, is one to watch.