Sheffield United: Unsworth was in pole position

Sheffield United's head of academy coaching, David Unsworth.
Sheffield United's head of academy coaching, David Unsworth.

David Unsworth would have been offered the chance to take charge of Kilmarnock had he not opted to remain with Sheffield United, writes James Shield.

Unsworth, head of coaching at the South Yorkshire club’s Redtooth Academy, was granted permission to hold talks with Rugby Park officials last weekend following the departure of Kenny Shiels.

As The Star revealed on Tuesday, the former England, Everton and United defender informed Kilmarnock chairman Michael Johnston that he no longer wished to be considered for the role 48 hours after returning from Ayrshire.

Sources north of the border last night revealed Unsworth’s decision represented a blow to Johnston who had hoped to install the 39-year-old after being seduced by his burgeoning reputation within the game.

“David impressed Killie with his ideas and thoughts on football in general,” one said. “In fact, it seems he would almost certainly have been asked to take over had he not opted not to stay where he is.”

Unsworth, appointed by United in December as part of their response to the Elite Player Performance Plan, also assisted caretaker manager Chris Morgan when David Weir’s predecessor Danny Wilson was relieved of his duties en route to the League One play-off semi-finals.

Weir, who signed a three year contract earlier this month, has placed home grown talent at the heart of his plans to restore United’s Championship status.

England under-20 goalkeeper George Long, Harry Maguire, Callum McFadzean, Elliott Whitehouse and Joe Ironside all featured prominently at first team level last term while teenager Diego De Girolamo was the subject of a tug of war between the Football Association and Italy before electing to represent Alberigo Evani’s team.

De Girolamo, who subsequently won the first of his six under-18 caps at the prestigious Granatkin Memorial Cup tournament in Russia, is expected to continue his progression after recovering from a serious knee injury.

England’s Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka also learned their trade at United before joining Tottenham Hotspur and Everton respectively.

Weir cited United’s production line as being a major weapon in their latest bid for promotion.

“Sheffield United are known within football for producing fine youngsters,” he said recently. “Not just footballers but fine people.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1