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Sheffield United: This is the first thing Chris Wilder will do on Monday morning

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

First thing tomorrow morning, before he unpacks his kit ahead of another training session, Chris Wilder will sift through the papers delivered to his desk every Monday and digest the contents.

The reports, compiled by a network of scouts and two trusted confidants, detail the progress of those Sheffield United youngsters who are furthering their education with rival football clubs.

"We keep a close eye on them all," Wilder said. "Mick Wadsworth is out and about and Mitch (head of recruitment Paul Mitchell) is out and about too.

"When the senior coaching staff get a chance to watch them, we go as well. Obviously it can be difficult, what with looking at the opposition and planning for the January transfer window. But we always do it when we can."

Thirteen members of United's squad are out on loan at present although two of those, Ryan Leonard and Lee Evans, will leave permanently next year.

Ben Heneghan, now of Blackpool, and Ched Evans, currently impressing for Fleetwood Town, still harbour aspirations of breaking into Wilder's plans after bit-part roles last term. 

But the paragraphs focusing on Regan Slater, Sam Graham and Callum Semple always grab the 50-year-old's attention, together with those assessing Tyler Smith and Harvey Gilmour.

Slater, who is scheduled to spend the next six months at Carlisle, is arguably the youngster closest to making the breakthrough having appeared three times for United since Wilder's appointment.

Graham, signed on a temporary basis by Oldham Athletic, has also made a positive impression while Semple, their fellow Steelphalt Academy graduate, is known to have caught the manager's eye before suffering a serious knee injury. Now fully recovered, he has been placed with Queen of the South, managed by former United defender Gary Naysmith. 

Gilmour moved to Tranmere Rovers earlier this term while Smith is continuing his development with Barrow AFC.

"John Sheridan (the Carlisle manager) is a pal of mine and so we speak a lot," Wilder said. "They came down here for training not so long ago so that was a good chance to catch-up. We speak to every one of them."

"From my point of view everybody at the football club, right from the juniors, they have to have that desire to do well and win games," Wilder said. "I want us to win but obviously, at academy level, silverware isn't the biggest thing. That is making sure they have the mentality and the tools required to survive and improve when they come to us in the top building."