Sheffield United: James Shield’s Inside View

Sheffield United will hold open trials for under-16 players next month � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Sheffield United will hold open trials for under-16 players next month � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
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“Modern coaching,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche insisted earlier this week, “Can get drunk on itself.”

Certainly we live in an era when football managers, from Sheffield United to Stocksbridge Park Steels, are bestowed with magical powers by supporters, journalists and pundits alike. Nigel Clough will be credited as the mastermind behind every good result and blamed for the bad ones. The same goes for Darren Schofield too.

Many of Dyche’s counterparts have promoted their profession to such an extent, they now find themselves in a position whereby responsibility is assumed for things over which they have no control.

Certainly, the game has come a long way since the days when formations were scrawled on the back of a fag packet and players told to complete an after-match warm-down headed dutifully to the nearest pub.

Spread sheets and pie charts have replaced Pirelli calendars as the items of choice on every self-respecting gaffer’s office wall.

Sometimes, though, results boil down to luck. Things happen on the pitch or in the bootroom that simply defy explanation.

Which is why, I’m glad to say, United have announced plans to hold an open under-16’s trial at their Redtooth Academy next month. Bramall Lane enjoys an enviable reputation for producing young players. Unparalleled, to be honest, in this part of the world.

But, as the RA’s manager Nick Cox confessed to me earlier this week, no system, scouting or otherwise, is completely foolproof. So it makes perfect sense to throw caution to the wind and see who pitches up.

Because, you never know, the next Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Stephen Quinn or Harry Maguire might just walk through the doors.

Science, of course, has generally been a force for good. Modern methods help to raise standards, prolong careers and limit margins for error in terms of recruitment. Fewer would-be professionals, should, these days, slip through the net.

But it also diminishes football’s ability to produce fairytale moments. Those Roy of the Rovers type stories every supporter loves.

United’s latest initiative, (which you can apply to join via email), seems like the perfect combination of good old fashioned romance and sound common sense.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1