SHEFFIELD UNITED: Teenage kicks as kids boost promotion bid

Prospect: Striker Joe Ironside has impressed Blades boss Wilson
Prospect: Striker Joe Ironside has impressed Blades boss Wilson

SHEFFIELD United will not shy away from thrusting youngsters such as Joe Ironside and Callum McFadzean into the heat of Saturday’s League One battle with Tranmere Rovers, manager Danny Wilson has confirmed.

Graduates from United’s Shirecliffe youth academy, including Diego De Girolamo, Terry Kennedy and their two attacking teammates, have enjoyed plenty of exposure in recent weeks as Wilson looks to coax his squad through the congested festive fixture schedule.

McFadzean, an 18-year-old winger, started the recent Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tie at Coventry.

Centre-forward Ironside replaced Chris Porter towards the end of the 3-1 triumph over Carlisle.

Asked whether their increasingly prominent roles are an indication that the club’s latest wave of home-grown players have earned the coaching staff’s trust, Wilson replied: “They haven’t had to earn that or our confidence because we know they are good players.

“The only way you find out whether these lads are up to it is to put them in and see.

“You’ve got to be brave and give them a go.

“That’s what we have been doing and that’s what we plan to do.”

Ironside, aged 19, has made three appearances for United so far this term while Kennedy is expected to stake a serious claim for first-team role after making his debut against Swansea City 19 months ago.

That’s a feat De Girolamo, whose progress at under-18 and under-21 level was rewarded with a professional contract in October, achieved during the JPT Northern Area quarter-final at the Ricoh Arena.

Wilson added: “Joe came on and did well and to bring him on at an important moment of the game shows what we think of him.

“The same goes for the others too.

“Obviously these lads are going to make mistakes or wrong decisions at times.

“It’s something we accept.

“But that’s how you learn and they are doing what they are doing on merit.”

United, who are third in the table, face Crawley Town, Scunthorpe, Hartlepool and Doncaster Rovers before travelling to either Oxford or Accrington Stanley in the third round of the FA Cup.

First, though, they entertain Ronnie Moore’s side at Bramall Lane knowing a win could see them leap from third to first in the table.

Reflecting on United’s result against Carlisle, Wilson said: “It was important that we kept up the pressure on the teams around us.

“I thought we played well, especially because it’s never an easy place to go.”