Aspiring professionals from Sheffield United will travel to Holland later this month after Bramall Lane was recognised as being a standard bearer in the field of youth development.
The South Yorkshire club were among four teams selected by League Football Education, the organisation responsible for delivering the Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence programme, for an all-expenses paid pre-season tour designed to expose players to continental methods.
United are scheduled to spend a week at NAC Breda before establishing a central training camp with fellow nominees Birmingham City, Portsmouth and Bradford City near Enschede.
Nick Cox, manager of the Redtooth Academy, told The Star: “It promises to be an excellent opportunity for the players to experience something which, in normal circumstances, they wouldn’t get the opportunity to do.
“Competition to earn a place on one of these tours is very fierce but we submitted a proposal outlining the importance we place on producing our own footballers and how it’s central to the philosophy of what Sheffield United sees itself to be.
“We were delighted to learn that we’d be chosen and it should be a really memorable but worthwhile trip for the players.” United’s under-18s arrive in North Brabant following their friendlies against Chesterfield (July 12), Stocksbridge PS (18), Hallam FC (21) and Belper Town (25).
They were recently identified as the eighth best producers of young talent in English football during a research project commissioned by the Premier League.
Redtooth graduates Louis Reed, Otis Khan and Connor Dimaio were all handed their senior debuts by first team manager Nigel Clough last term.
An LFE statement confirmed “the quartet excelled during a rigorous application and selection process,” and Alan Sykes, its chief executive, said: “It’s great preparation for the season, a chance to build camaraderie, learn from foreign coaches and for the players to sample a different culture.”
United’s first team begins its pre-season programme at Burton Albion on Saturday before visiting Northampton Town (July 22) and York City (August 2). They host Huddersfield Town and Fenerbahce on July 29 and 31 respectively.
The development squad, meanwhile, travel to Bradford Park Avenue (July 26), Matlock Town (July 30), Harrogate Town (August 5) and New Mills (August 13).
“We’ll be taking strong and interesting squads to all of our matches,” Cox said.
“A lot of the players who did well last season will be involved so they’ll be competitive fixtures.”
Davies, 33, backed to shine
Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has predicted Ben Davies will prove an indispensible member of his squad next season as the South Yorkshire club chases promotion from League One.
Davies, the former Derby County midfielder, completed a permanent transfer to Bramall Lane four weeks ago after impressing on loan last term.
Clough, who worked with the 33-year-old at the iPro Stadium before taking charge of United in October, told The Star: “What you’ve seen from Ben during the three months he has been here is what you will get all season from him.
“He is flexible and can perform well in different positions and he can chip in with some important goals.
“His attitude is excellent.”
Davies, who has also represented Notts County and Shrewsbury Town, scored three times in 20 appearances last season.
Clough has made no secret of the fact that character as well as calibre helps shape his recruitment policy. “Like anyone else he can get a bit down if he’s not playing,” Clough said. “You’d expect that of any player.
“But, in those instances, it’s how Ben reacts which is so important. He makes sure he still contributes by helping the rest of the team.
“There will always be a place for people like Ben.”