NEILL Collins wants Sheffield United’s youngsters to follow the lead of “perfect role model” Harry Maguire, and force their way into the first-team picture at Bramall Lane.
Collins, who watched proudly last week as his 19-year-old centre half partner Maguire made his England Under-21 bow, issued the challenge after Ryan Flynn became the latest United player to succumb to injury during Tuesday night’s 3-3 draw with Crewe.
United boss Danny Wilson has recently seen top-scorer Nick Blackman flourish in a new role on the right of midfield, and Collins said: “Nick’s doing really well out wide.
“I’m sure it’s not new to him, and there’s of course things he can learn, but there’s a dearth of wingers at this club, especially after Ryan went off injured.
“It’s good that Nick gives us another option out wide - you need as many options as you possibly can. We now need others to step up to the mantle; maybe some players from the Under 21s can step up and impress.”
One wing option, 18-year-old Callum McFadzean, was on the bench on Tuesday but Wilson elected to replace Flynn with David McAllister.
The young winger, who is deployed primarily at left-back for United’s Under-21 side, was a member of United’s Youth Cup squad which reached the final last year and, according to Collins, is one youngster who can learn from his close friend Maguire.
“There can be no better role model than Harry Maguire, if I was a young boy at this club he’d be perfect to learn from,” the Scottish centre half added.
“I’d be looking at everything Harry does, and how he handles himself.
“He was great when he came into the team, and since he’s gone from strength to strength. He’s played a lot of games and he’s learned a lot, and he’s learning and improving all the time.”
That improvement was recognised with Maguire’s inclusion in Stuart Pearce’s England Under-21 squad which faced Northern Ireland last week and Collins, who will again be paired with the teenager when United visit Brentford on Saturday, said: “It’s long overdue.
“Harry’s been playing exceptionally well, and he won’t have a problem keeping a level head. He’s at the right place in his career right now, and I’m sure he’ll want to get a promotion on his CV.
“He will go on to great things in the game. He’s made huge improvements in his game, and he’s got plenty of time to improve further.
“Centre backs don’t generally peak until they’re 28, so goodness knows how good he’s going to be.”
Follow Danny on Twitter: @dannyhall04.