Pressure on as Lane kids eye cup glory

Sheffield Utd v Sheffield Wed.....Owls Danny Kirkland tackles Blades Jordan Slew
Sheffield Utd v Sheffield Wed.....Owls Danny Kirkland tackles Blades Jordan Slew

JOHN Pemberton is prepared to endure some short-term pain to ensure long-term gain at Sheffield United’s academy.

But tonight, when the South Yorkshire club entertain Millwall in the FA Youth Cup, the man tasked with grooming its next generation knows the only thing that matters is a result. Ambitious plans to increase the flow of talent from Shirecliffe to the first team can wait.

“We want to go as far as we possibly can,” Pemberton told The Star. “That’s my aim and it’s the aim of the players too.

“Knockout football, when everything is riding on one game, brings different demands and pressure to those most of the boys will have faced and learning to cope with that is an important part of anyone’s development. But we do want to go through.”

In truth, progress to the later stages of the competition and efforts to furnish Micky Adams with a wave of exciting new options are inextricably linked.

Josh McEachren and Jeffrey Bruma have established themselves at Chelsea after helping Dermot Drummy’s side lift the trophy while Aston Villa, who visited Bramall Lane in the tournament proper recently, have also used it as a vehicle to promote the likes of Nathan Delfounso, Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan.

“The game has changed a lot,” Pemberton said. “And we need to move with it. Different qualities and skills are required.

“Our centre-halves, for instance, take as many touches of the ball as the midfielders. That might leave us a little bit exposed at times and, further down the ladder, mean we sometimes concede a few goals but it’s important to give the boys the right techniques.

“When I played, central defenders were all about kicking and heading. But if you school people to play a direct game then that’s the only game they’ll end up being able to play.

“ Give them the right skills and they can play any type later in their careers.”

A 4-1 victory over Cheltenham Town saw United set up their meeting with Millwall.

Joe Ironside, Harry Maguire, Corey Gregory and Terry Kennedy were all on target while the visitors and two-time winners dispatched Walsall.

Highly-rated Jordan Slew will lead the United attack tonight (Bramall Lane, KO 7pm).