Blades fight for custody of the kids

The future: George Long.

The future: George Long.

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KEVIN McCabe, Sheffield United’s plc chairman, has issued a hands-off warning to clubs looking to poach Bramall Lane’s best young players ahead of next week’s FA Youth Cup Final against Manchester United.

But McCabe, who revealed United are facing a £12 million drop in revenue after being relegated from the Championship, admitted his board of directors are powerless to prevent rivals from expressing an interest in John Pemberton’s squad.

The future: Jordan Slew.

The future: Jordan Slew.

Insisting those words should not be interpreted as a hint that the likes of Jordan Slew, Harry Maguire and Terry Kennedy are destined to depart after the second-leg of their contest with Manchester United, McCabe said: “You tell me how we stop people from showing interest? The simple fact is that we can’t. It’s impossible.

“But let me be very clear; these lads will not miss an opportunity to play in the first-team squad here.

“They’ll be exposed to first-team football, that’s for sure.

“I’ll tell you now that we don’t want to sell one of them. Fact.

The future: Terry Kennedy.

The future: Terry Kennedy.

“But if, say, someone from the Premier League comes in for them and the player concerned sees what they can earn and says he wants to go, then what can you do?

“You have to try and deal with the situation as best as possible. But that’s not what we want to happen. End of.”

United have invested heavily in their academy and with several graduates recently making the breakthrough at senior level – George Long and Matthew Harriott also featured at Swansea City in the last match of the season – the wisdom of that decision is clearly evident.

Despite accepting their League One status makes them vulnerable to hostile bids, United’s hierarchy, aware of the backlash such departures would provoke, are known to prefer off-loading more established names in an effort to limit the financial damage caused by their 23rd-placed finish.

The Star understands that McCabe sought an undertaking from Micky Adams that United’s youth and development programmes would be the first port of call for reinforcements next term before dispensing with the manager’s services on Tuesday.

“We’re not starry-eyed about this,” McCabe said. “We know that not all of these kids are going to succeed at this level but I accept that we’ve fallen into the trap of making short-term and ultimately expensive moves into the loan market when perhaps we should have been looking elsewhere first.”

United have only 4,000 tickets left for Tuesday’s home leg of the FA Youth Cup Final. They travel to Old Trafford on Monday May 23.

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