Sheffield United manager Nigel Adkins has unveiled ambitious plans to ensure half of his first team squad is eventually comprised of home-grown talent.
Adkins set the target after the Steelphalt Academy, which has produced internationals such as Kyle Walker and Stephen Quinn in recent seasons, was named as the region’s leading centre for youth development in a leading research report.
“Fifty per cent is a big number but you’ve got to strive,” Adkins said. “You’ve got to put pressure on yourself. If you have an academy then you’ve got to make sure there is a pathway through and that we are producing good players.
“We’ve done it before at other clubs and there’s an affinity there. It won’t happen, that 50 per cent target, overnight but it’s a good business model.”
Adkins issued his pledge after confirming that academy graduates feature at the heart of a recruitment strategy which, despite coming under intense scrutiny following United’s failure to secure any of their January transfer targets, will eventually prove beneficial. Although his comments will grate with those concerned by United’s position in the League One table - they are 11th ahead of this weekend’s visit to Doncaster Rovers - Adkins has steadfastly refused to change his player identification model after reiterating a desire to work with a “smaller group” of professionals.
Louis Reed, George Long and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have all featured in United’s matchday squad this term after progressing through the ranks at Bramall Lane in recent years.
Indicating the criteria will also apply to youth and under-21 team players hoping to progress through the ranks, he said: “Players have to be robust, athletic, quick, ball playing warriors. They have to be good for Sheffield United.”