Danny Hall: Sheffield United's David Brooks is a young man of few words but immense potential

United starlet David Brooks
United starlet David Brooks
0
Have your say

It is halfway through what seems like day 37 of Sheffield United's celebrations after winning the League One title. The open-top bus parade, from Bramall Lane to the Town Hall, is over. The beer brought onto the bus in droves is gone, and the players and Chris Wilder are gathered in front of their adoring fans.

One by one, the stars of United's 100-point success take turns to hoist the League One trophy above their heads, banishing six seasons of disappointment and mediocrity with it. Billy Sharp, scorer of 30 goals and the homegrown captain, savours the moment. Jack O'Connell, by this point immortalised in song that seemed to never stop, did likewise. Then followed the great and the good; some who were instrumental in the title triumph, some who played bit-part roles.

Then, one who played no part at all; David Brooks, then aged just 19 and a veteran of no more than four first-team games, in the Checkatrade Trophy and FA Cup. But along with the likes of Louis Reed and Jake Eastwood, he was on the bus and then came his time to shine.

Typically, he had to be almost dragged out of the crowd for it; Chris Wilder and Alan Knill shepherding him to the front of the steps, jokingly insisting the shyest member of their squad do a speech. Brooks, almost wide-eyed with fear, wipes his face and looks nervously around. "If he doesn't say a few words, I'm freeing him," Wilder shouts. "Free me then!" Brooks replies. In his panic, he forgets to actually lift the trophy.

The difference between Brooks the person and Brooks the player is staggering. He has grown in stature since the summer, when he was named player of the competition as England won the Toulon Tournament, and impressed in pre-season friendlies against Stocksbridge and Malaga. Then came Tuesday night's friendly against Chesterfield at the Proact, when he made a 23-minute cameo and scored a stunning winner.

It was arguably a crossroads moment in his career, Brooks was that good. The day a boy became a man.

In mitigation, it was only a pre-season friendly against local opposition who will be plying their trade in League Two next season. But having seen Brooks on numerous occasions for United's U23s last season, it confirmed what this writer already knew; this lad is the real deal. The prospect of coming up against the likes of Ian Evatt, Chesterfield's skipper who's 15 years his senior and looks twice his weight, would strike fear in the hearts of many raw, unproven 20-year-olds. Instead, Brooks thrived. This wasn't men against boys. They were equals.

For Chesterfield fans, it was a glimpse at what they could have won. Brooks, before his Toulon exploits, had been scheduled to spend the 2017/18 season on loan at the Proact, an agreement which was subsequently shelved. Instead, he is very much in Wilder's thoughts as he prepares for the Championship curtain raiser against Brentford on August 5.

“Brooksy can totally be a part of things here next season,” Wilder said.

“If he continues to show what he is doing, definitely. If he tails-off, then we’ve got some great role models in that dressing room who won’t let him. There are no gimmes but, clearly, he’s a talent.”

Talent that won't have gone unnoticed elsewhere, of course. Everton were heavily linked with a bid despite sources at Finch Farm suggesting none was imminent, but a global tournament featuring future stars will always attract scouts and eyebrows will have raised when they looked into the stand-out player and discovered he plays for Sheffield United, rather than Manchester.

So Blades fans' weariness is understandable. After all, in the space of six months they watched two young stars, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aaron Ramsdale, move to Everton and Bournemouth respectively. Both also shone for England in tournament success this summer.

Can Brooks be the exception? Championship football, and the relative step-up in income, will surely help. As will, as I discussed with one Twitter follower on Tuesday evening, playing him; as a ‘reject’ of a Premier League academy, will Brooks have any desire to rejoin a top-flight club’s U23s if he is a regular in a Championship first-team squad?

The subject was broached recently with Blades co-owner Kevin McCabe, when I asked him if last season’s promotion has eased the pressure a little in terms of losing players. “In many ways, yes,” he said. “But the truth is until you are back in the Premier League, if a Premier League club comes along and wants one of your players... if someone can give me the answer of how you keep them.

“I think most supporters realise that our desire is not to sell a David Brooks - obviously a youngster with immense talent - or a Dominic Calvert-Lewin. But when the big dog comes knocking...”

The only way to stand a chance of fending off the big clubs, it seems, is become one, in terms of Premier League football and the riches it brings. Until then, it's a case of balancing the books and remaining competitive. Of course, keeping your most talented players, a bracket Brooks undoubtedly belongs to, improves your chances hugely. That’s the catch-22 situation of modern football, folks. Who’d be a chairman?