FOUR years ago, Matthew Lowton was plying his trade at Northern Premier Division One level and facing an uncertain future in the game.
But now, having blossomed under Danny Wilson’s tutelage, the Sheffield United defender was last night described by his manager as being among the finest full-backs in League One.
“I rate Matty as one of the best players in this competition in his position,” Wilson said. “Can he play at a higher level? Absolutely yes.
“He’s got bags of ability and good feet.
“Crucially, he’s also got a good head on his shoulders.
“There was a period earlier this season when perhaps his performances slipped a bit but that’s to be expected.
“He’s definitely right back in the groove now though.
“From our perspective, it’s absolutely crucial that we keep players like Matty at this club.”
Wilson’s assessment of Lowton’s potential is shared by a number of sides at Championship level with representatives of Derby County’s recruitment department regular visitors to Bramall Lane.
Having taken his tally for the season to five with a well-taken effort against Notts County eight days ago, the 22-year-old’s best position is also a matter for debate with some observers suggesting he could be deployed in a more advanced role.
Wilson said: “Matty could probably play pretty much anywhere he wants. Other than in between the posts of course because I don’t think he’s tall enough for that.
“But as a full-back, he’s able to run forward from deep and he gets lots of good space because of that.
“It’s arguable, if you understand the dynamics of the sport now, that he wouldn’t enjoy the same sort of space if he was playing further forward.”
Lowton, who is expected to start against his home-town club, Chesterfield, tonight, has been a driving force behind United’s climb to third in the table.
However, when he was allowed to join Sheffield FC on loan as a teenager, he seemed destined to become one of those players who never fulfil their promise before a spell with United’s sister club, Ferencvaros, rescued his career.
“In any case, we’re not going to go confusing players by swapping systems around left, right and centre at this stage,” Wilson said. “There’s no point in doing that and it makes absolutely no sense.
“We’ve got to where we are now by doing things in a certain manner.”