DARIUS Henderson has backed strike-partner Jordan Slew to make a huge impression at Bramall Lane after delivering a glowing critique of the teenager’s credentials.
Henderson, whose partnership with Slew briefly raised Sheffield United’s hopes of npower Championship survival before relegation was confirmed last month, insisted the teenager possess “the qualities required” to establish himself as a fixture in the first-team squad.
Two goals in his last five senior appearances, coupled with a starring role in the academy’s qualification for the FA Youth Cup final, have confirmed Slew’s status as one of the most exciting talents to emerge from United’s development programme since Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton.
But although Henderson is full of admiration for his colleague’s predatory instincts, it is Slew’s carefree approach to the game which prompted the former Watford marksman’s glowing assessment.
“I can see Jordan having a really bright future,” said Henderson. “He’s shown he can score and it goes without saying that’s vitally important in this position.
“But what really impresses me about him, is his attitude. He doesn’t seem to have any fear whatsoever. In fact, in that regard he reminds me a lot of myself when I was younger.”
That intrepid approach could prove worth its weight in gold when John Pemberton’s squad host their namesakes from Manchester in the first leg of the final tomorrow. Nearly 30,000 people are expected to watch the eagerly anticipated contest (kick-off 7.30pm).
Henderson, aged 29, insisted he would relish the opportunity to continue working alongside Slew before United’s final game of the season at Swansea City.
Dismissing suggestions that the prospect of League One football would force him to ask for a move - “I haven’t asked to leave and I won’t be asking to leave either” - Henderson elaborated further on the reasons behind his thinking.
“Sometimes it just seems to click with a player and, although there’s a long way to go, it seems to be going pretty well with Jordan. It feels like we’re a pretty decent fit.
“He’s a lot quicker than I am and that’s an attribute that’s very important for the team in general. But although I always back myself to score goals and always want to score goals, I think his pace means I can set-up a few chances for him too.
“It’s been good seeing the younger lads come through. They’re full of enthusiasm. I hope there are a few things I can pass on to Jordan.”
The bleak financial landscape awaiting United in League One, however, means Henderson is unlikely to get his wish to stay.
Henderson is aware that his status as one of the club’s highest earners means United’s board of directors will be obliged to try and engineer a swift sale.
But, if he is forced to depart, the £2m signing is clearly determined to ensure it will be on his own terms.
n Supporters who have pre-booked tickets for tomorrow’s meeting with Manchester United are being advised to collect them early in order to avoid delays before the kick-off.