Sheffield United: Academy chief reveals Lane vision

Rising star: Kyle Walker came through United's youth system
Rising star: Kyle Walker came through United's youth system

BLADES academy manager Nick Cox has outlined his long-term ambitions for Sheffield United’s youngsters.

Cox’s role at the club began in January after over a decade of nurturing Watford’s young starlets and he wants to keep the conveyor belt of talent coming through at Bramall Lane.

Attracted to the job by the reputation United have within the game as producers of their own players, Cox knows that nothing needs fixing but he will be adding tweaks here and there to put his own stamp on proceedings.

He told The Star: “A lot of excellent work has gone on in the past and we need to preserve the good practice.

“The Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) has made big changes to youth football and the bar has been raised because of it. The auditors come in April and we’ll have added and developed by then.”

United are one of only a handful of clubs to have been granted Category Two status outside the top two tiers of English football and it ensures their younger players continue to compete against clubs of the size and stature of Manchester United and Manchester City.

Cox was quick to stress that those within the Premier League, who handed United along with Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley Category Two status, are not on the lookout for across the board similarity.

United will be judged by their own standards. The very same that have seen players such as Terry Kennedy, Callum McFadzean, Elliott Whitehouse, Joe Ironside and Diego De Girolamo break into Danny Wilson’s first-team set-up in recent months.

“We’re measured by the standards we’ve set ourselves in the past,” he continued.

“We’re huge believers in the opportunity that there is at our club and the programme is already in place.

“The amount of boys making their debuts in the first team sets the club aside and there’s a long history of that and it’s a big part of the club’s philosophy.”

Five of United’s squad in their FA Cup exit on Saturday came through the ranks at Shirecliffe and Cox is determined to keep producing talented individuals to enhance the first team.

Whilst the theory is that the graduates will establish themselves at Bramall Lane there is also financial gain to be achieved as United have found out with the sales of Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton and Matthew Lowton to bigger clubs. Cox is no stranger to producing pounds as well as players.

He stated: “I’m incredibly proud of what I achieved at Watford. I was part of the organisation that saw 52 boys make their first team debuts in a twelve year period, which is unrivalled. The likes of Ashley Young and Marvin Sordell were the more famous but lads like Tommy Hoban are in the first-team now.

“Football clubs have to be sustainable and if and when they move on we will want them to have made an impact and benefit in the first team first.”

Did you know? Apart from Manchester City, Manchester United and Everton, United have lost the fewest amount of matches in the top four divisions. Four, tied with Chelsea and Brentford.