Sheffield United: Will Middlesbrough winger Harry Chapman be the first of many at Bramall Lane?
There is a video on You Tube which shows Harry Chapman dancing past two defenders during a UEFA Youth League tie against Torino before sweeping the ball past the goalkeeper and into the back of the Italian's net.
The winger, who joined Sheffield United on a season long loan from Middlesbrough yesterday, would be facing Stoke City rather than Rochdale this afternoon if he was capable of such magic every week.
But Chris Wilder, who is poised to hand the teenager his debut against Keith Hill’s side, is convinced the League One club have acquired a footballer of considerable talent.
“Harry is a highly-rated wide player with plenty of ability and I’m sure he’s going to excite our supporters,” he said. “We’re delighted to be able to bring him here.”
Chapman, aged 18, becomes Wilder’s eighth new signing since being appointed United manager three months ago. And, with the former Northampton Town and Oxford chief outlining plans to forge closer relationships with top-flight teams, he is unlikely to be the last. Although Wilder’s plans to bolster United’s midfield options could be delayed until several unwanted or development players leave Bramall Lane, talks are known to have taken place with several other potential targets operating at PL and Championship level. A goalkeeper, if either Aaron Ramsdale or Jake Eastwood are encouraged to gain more first team experience, could also feature on United’s wanted-list.
“We’ve got three young lads there and we’ve got a huge amount of confidence in all of them,” Wilder, speaking earlier this week, said. “We’re always looking and always seeing what might need to be developed depending on the situation here.”
United enter the meeting with Rochdale searching for their first win of the season after being beaten by Bolton Wanderers and then Crewe Alexandra in the EFL Cup. The visitors have also used the temporary transfer market to good effect in recent years with Jack O’Connell, the United, enjoying two spells at Spotland earlier in his career.
“They pick their loans well,” Wilder acknowledged. “They know their way in and around those areas. They recruit to their budget. Jack was an excellent player for them and Keith and his staff played a big part in their development. It’s a big game for everybody though. We want to get off to a good start in terms of league games at Bramall Lane. Even though results have gone against us, we will be positive.”
Chapman, an England youth international, was on the verge of joining Fleetwood Town until United hijacked the move by guaranteeing Middlesbrough he would become an important member of Wilder’s squad. But Aitor Karanka, his counterpart on Teesside, has not stipulated Chapman must start every game. Crucially for United, the youngster boasts League One experience having helped Barnsley win promotion during a similar spell in South Yorkshire last term.
“Character is key,” Wilder said. “That knowledge and knowing what’s required.”
Meanwhile, former United trialist Alex Davey has joined Crawley Town on loan until January.
The Chelsea centre-half took part in last month’s friendly against Handsworth Parramore but returned to Stamford Bridge after Wilder decided to pursue other options instead.
Crawley are managed by Dermot Drummy, previously a coach at the London club’s academy.
United are encouraging supporters to take part in a tribute to John Hope, their former goalkeeper, who passed away recently.
“We ask all Blades at the game against Rochdale to put their hands together in applause for John in the 71st minute of the match,” a spokesperson said, “In memory of his life and the contribution he made in sealing our promotion in the 1970/71 season. Members of the Hope family are our guests for the game and we think ‘Hopey’ would appreciate your kind thoughts being channelled to helping get behind Chris and the team.”