Alan Biggs at Large: Sheffield United’s constant battle to keep starring kids at the Lane

Louis Reed
Louis Reed

Sheffield United have long out-performed their status on producing talent – but keeping it is another matter.

What they have to do now is keep pace with their best kids. And promotion to the Championship under Nigel Adkins would be only a start.

The controversial Elite Player Performance Plan has become a license for Premier League clubs to hoover up talent at source.

Says Blades academy chief Nick Cox: “The biggest challenge used to be finding the best players.

“Now it’s about keeping them. We’re constantly under threat from the biggest clubs being interested in our players.”

At senior level, this means United having to match the progress of, say, Louis Reed in order to keep him.

“I’ve got to produce players who are better than us,” says Cox. “The key to the first team being in a good state is keeping pace so that we are not selling them too early. And if a player outgrows us we have to have another to take his place.

“The manager has put pressure on himself to get promotion and everything is focused on that.

“But he understands about building a legacy for three years rather than three months.

“Nigel has a personal commitment to getting young players in the first team, which is in the DNA of the club.”

Reed, just turning 18, faces a big season but not one he can’t handle.

“Last year there was no expectation so this is a real challenging one for him,” says Cox.