Nigel Adkins has admitted that Bramall Lane’s reputation as a breeding ground for young footballing talent was a factor behind his decision to become Sheffield United manager.
So perhaps it was fitting the goal which settled Saturday’s friendly at Ilkeston, his first appearance since taking charge of the League One club, was created and converted by Redtooth Academy graduates.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin applied the all important touch after Diego De Girolamo had made a nuisance of himself in the penalty area with five minutes remaining. His effort ensured United’s pre-season programme started in positive fashion and provided Adkins, whose team continue their preparations against Cheltenham Town tomorrow, with plenty to digest.
“Dominic scored a very good goal and Diego produced some very good interactive play,” he said.
“Let’s face it, we could have scored five or six first-half but that’s not what it’s all about at this stage.”
“It was a good game and a typical pre-season game,” Adkins continued.
“Keeping a clean sheet was pleasing but there’s a lot more for us to do.
“We’ve spent three weeks doing lots of fitness work and now we can start doing more with regards to tactics.”
Adkins, who revealed afterwards that Florent Cuvelier had been withdrawn as a precautionary measure during the closing stages, achieved promotions at both Scunthorpe and Southampton before arriving in South Yorkshire last month.
Despite his praise for the likes of Calvert-Lewin, Kieran Wallace and Che Adams, whose transfer from Ilkeston to United was the catalyst for this fixture, Adkins is aware he will need more than unpolished gems to repeat the feat again.
Neill Collins, Michael Higdon and Jamal Campbell-Ryce were recalled after lengthy absences under the previous regime.
James Wallace, whose debut season with United was wrecked by injury, charged about the pitch with a vigour which suggested he not only wanted to prove something to Adkins but also himself.
“It was pleasing to see James get 45 minutes,” he acknowledged. “He probably felt like he needed that and it’s good that he’s come through okay. That’s another positive.”
Predictably, given the fact they stand four rungs above their hosts on England’s footballing pyramid, United dominated possession although Ilkeston were industrious and intelligent opponents.
Evandro Rachoni, their goalkeeper, is not a man to be intimidated after starting his European adventure in war-torn Ukraine and thwarted Marc McNulty after Higdon had twice gone close.
Higdon, partnering the Scot in attack, also saw attempts hacked off the line at either end of the first-half.
Adams, one of eleven changes United made for the starft of the second period, twice went close before Kieran Wallace, deputising alongside Harrison McGahey at centre-half, instigated the move which ended with fellow substitute Calvert-Lewin bundling home.
“Kieran and Connor Dimao, who went in at full-back, have never played those positions before and they coped admirably,” Adkins said. “The make-up of the squad we have at this moment dictated that but they did very well.”
Sheffield United: Howard, Freeman, Collins, McEveley, Harris, Campbell-Ryce, Basham, J Wallace, Murphy, McNulty, Higdon. Second-Half: Long, Dimaio, McGahey, K Wallace, McFadzean, Scougall, Baxter, Cuvelier (Reed 81), Adams, Calvert-Lewin, DeGirolamo.