Sheffield United: Blades issue an open invitation

Nick Cox, manager of the Redtooth Academy � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY
Nick Cox, manager of the Redtooth Academy � BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Born and bred in the Steel City before going on to wear the red and white jersey of his favourite club, the story of how Kyle Walker became a Sheffield United player is Roy of the Rovers stuff, writes James Shield.

Next month, another generation of aspiring young professionals will be given an opportunity to follow in the England defender’s footsteps when staff at the Redtooth Academy hold a series of open trials.

The sessions, which could result in participants being offered a scholarship for the 2014/15 season, form part of United’s plan to focus their energies on developing local youngsters rather than importing talent from abroad.

“Our aim is to try and bring through as many players as we can from Sheffield and the surrounding areas,” academy manager Nick Cox said. “That’s one of the reasons why we are doing this as we want to exhaust all possibilities in our own region before we look elsewhere.

“I don’t think there’s anything a supporter likes better than seeing ‘one of their own’ as it were, coming through.”

Walker, who entered United’s youth system after being recommended by coaches from charity Football United, Racism Divides, made nearly 40 senior appearances before joining team mate Kyle Naughton at Tottenham Hotspur in 2009. The right-back, who signed a new long-term contract in the capital earlier this week, has won nine international caps since.

Cox, previously of Watford, said: “We’re working closely with our community programme - where Mark Todd does some brilliant stuff - because, no matter how hard you try, no traditional scouting system is foolproof.

“Look at Britt Assombalonga, who we had at Watford, for example. He pretty much walked in off the street, joined the community programme and has recently been involved in a move (to Peterborough) reportedly worth seven figures.

“That’s why we’re forging links with some of our local non-league clubs, playing matches against them and trying to make the academy as accessible as possible. Shortly, we’ll also be inviting coaches in from some of those teams to the academy so we can all share our ideas.”

Boys interested in attending the trials, which are designed for under-16’s, should email including their date of birth, brief resume of their playing history and conformation they are not contracted to another professional club.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1