Fifteen games unbeaten and having finished the season 14 points clear of their nearest rivals in Professional Development League Two North, nobody can dispute that Sheffield United’s under-18’s are worthy play-off champions.
Indeed, possibly the only disappointing thing about Wednesday evening’s 1-0 victory over Coventry City was that, after dominating the match for long periods, Bramall Lane’s next generation did not win by more.
But, as academy manager Travis Binnion admitted, failing to establish a commanding lead at least allowed them to showcase the drive and determination required to build successful careers.
“There was a real will to win about them,” Binnion said. “They got beaten in the final last year and they were adamant it wasn’t going to happen again. They’ve drawn on that experience and it shows they’ve got the right character.”
Derek Geary’s side were relentless against the visitors from Warwickshire; hustling, harassing and hunting down every loose ball. But the most impressive aspect of their display was, as Binnion last night acknowledged, their game-management. City included six first team squad members in their starting eleven, including Chris Camwell who made his senior debut on the final day of the campaign. United’s most experienced performers - Regan Slater and goalscorer Jordan Hallam - featured in a Checkatrade Trophy tie against Grimsby Town six months ago.
“Other than a brief scare right at the end, I thought the lads saw the game out really well,” Binnion (pictured left) continued. “And that showed real maturity. It also showed they’ve taken on board what has happened in the past, progressed and developed. So that was really good to see.
“Sometimes, the ability or willingness to do that can’t actually be coached. But they’ve clearly got it in them.”
Chris Wilder, who midway through last term reaffirmed his commitment to home-grown talent, will notice another parallel between Geary’s charges and his own League One title winning team when he reviews the match DVD.
“There’s a real group mentality among the lads,” Binnion said. “You could see them among them at the end. They know every single one of them has contributed to what they’ve done and now they want to do more.
“The first team lads did brilliantly this year because that’s the attitude they have. That’s the attitude the manager demands.
“These boys have shown the same, they’ve taken on board what is happening up there, because they’ve also pushed themselves.”