Nick Cox, Sheffield United’s academy manager, has claimed the club’s decision to offer professional contracts to five young players underlines its commitment to youth development, writes James Shield.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Otis Khan Connor Dimaio, Louis Reed and Ben Whiteman were introduced to the crowd ahead of Sunday’s League One victory over Tranmere Rovers after impressing staff with their contributions this season.
“We are obviously extremely proud of the five boys,” Cox said. “This is a landmark moment in their young careers although they all know the amount of hard work and dedication that lies ahead.
“The first team manager (Nigel Clough) has watched them all play several times since he arrived at the club and is keen to see young players progress.
“This is a reminder that our club provides great opportunities for young players to develop. Something that not all clubs can boast.”
The quintet, who have yet to officially accept professional terms, are the latest in a long line of names to graduate from the Redtooth Academy in recent years.
George Long, Harry Maguire and Terry Kennedy were all named in the squad which beat the visitors from Prenton Park 3-1 while England internationals Phil Jagielka and Kyle Walker also started their careers at Bramall Lane.
United, who were recently commended by the FA Premier League for their ability to produce home-grown talent, return to action when they face Walsall at the Bescot Stadium tomorrow.
Speaking ahead of that fixture, Clough said: “These contract offers are reward for their work this season. It is the right thing to do and we are delighted to show commitment to this prospects.
“All have done well at under-18 level and have had a taste of under-21 football too. Playing regularly for the under-21’s is the natural pathway to the first team and we hope to see these lads, and others, develop.”
With United 17th in the table, however, Clough’s immediate priority is reshaping the first team squad he inherited from David Weir two months ago during the forthcoming transfer window.
Lyle Taylor, a summer signing from Falkirk and reigning Scottish Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year, yesterday joined Patrick Thistle on loan for the remainder of the campaign and could make his debut for Alan Archibald’s side against Celtic tomorrow.
Taylor scored 29 goals in 42 outings for Falkirk before joining United and Archibald said: “I’m delighted to have managed to bring Lyle to Firhill. He will complement the strikers that we already have at the club.
“He did really well with Falkirk scoring a barrow load of goals and that earned him his move to Sheffield United. Things haven’t worked out for him with United so far which can happen when there is a change in manager but he carries a potent threat and has a real eye for a goal.
“He’s quick and he is good getting in behind defenders as well. I’m sure he will prove to be an important addition to the squad for the second half of the season.”
Meanwhile, United could also allow Elliott Whitehouse and Callum McFadzean to remain with York City and Chesterfield should the League Two clubs wish to extend their respective loan agreements.
Whitehouse has made 18 appearances after joining City in September while McFadzean made his fifth for Paul Cook’s side against Exeter earlier this month. Both are scheduled to rejoin United in the New Year.
“We can have 24 hour recalls,” Clough said.