THE sight of Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka and now Matthew Lowton preparing for the new Premier League campaign is a source of deep regret at Bramall Lane.
But Danny Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, last night insisted his employers should take heart from the fact they consistently produce players capable of gracing English football’s greatest stage.
The departure of Lowton, who earlier this month became the latest graduate from their Shirecliffe youth academy to be spirited away by a top-flight club, inevitably provoked intense debate about the wisdom of United’s decision to invest time and money developing home-grown talent.
Wilson, however, predicted the churn in personnel could actually have a beneficial effect upon results next term when the likes of Elliott Whitehouse, Terry Kennedy and Joe Ironside could all be granted opportunities at first-team level.
“I’m excited about the prospect,” Wilson said. “Obviously we would have liked to have kept Matty but it’s not all gloom and doom here despite what some people seem to think.
“Sometimes it takes different things to happen - a bit of a shake-up whether you plan it or not - to set in motion the chain of events which enable you to discover the next Matthew Lowton.
“At first-team level, a terrific player might just suddenly drop in your lap.
“You’ve got to believe that can happen.
“This club of all clubs has shown that it can.”
Wilson added: “One of the things I’ve picked up in this business is that fans will always be patient with young players providing they can see something is there and they are giving their all.
“Listen, we aren’t going to do anyone any favours.
“These lads will only end up in the team if we think they are good enough.
“What we do know is that there are some who already deserve that chance.”
The trick for United now is to wrestle them
selves into a position whereby they retain the services of their best young players for the entirety or, at the very least, a much longer chunk of their careers.
Wilson, who guided United into the League One play-off final last season, concedes they will once again be expected to challenge for promotion during the 2012/13 campaign.
United’s preparations begin in earnest when they visit Ilkeston tomorrow before flying to Malta for a week’s worth of warm weather training on Friday.
Whitehouse, who came close to featuring a senior level earlier this year, is expected to travel to the Mediterranean.
John Cofie, a member of the Manchester United squad which beat their Sheffield namesakes in the 2011 FA Youth Cup Final, was also declared available for selection after completing his loan move from Old Trafford last week.
Kennedy, Ironside and Harry Maguire, now an established member of Wilson’s starting 11, featured in both legs of the double-header with Paul McGuinness’ side.
Lowton, who moved to Aston Villa for an undisclosed seven-figure sum, could lineup against Jagielka when Everton arrive at Villa Park on August 25.
Paul Lambert’s charges travel to Tottenham Hotspur, where Walker is now plying his trade, in October.