Sheffield United are expected to hold another series of open trials later this year as part of a drive to cement their position among the country’s foremost developers of home-grown talent, writes James Shield.
Nick Cox, manager of the Redtooth Academy, revealed the scheme, which will see youngsters eligible for under-13 and under-14 competition descend upon the complex during the Easter Break, is designed to ensure youngsters who do not take “traditional” routes into the game still enjoy the opportunity to forge professional careers.
England internationals Kyle Walker and Phil Jagielka are both graduates of United’s youth system while another, Louis Reed, was awarded his first under-18 cap last month. Walker arrived at Bramall Lane following a recommendation by coaches working with the Football Unites, Racism Divides project.
“We are aware that not everyone can take what is now seen as the traditional pathway into the game,” Cox told The Star. “For a variety of reasons.
“The idea behind giving people the chance to self-select is an acknowledgement of that and also, from our standpoint, a recognition that not everybody develops at the same rate.
“There are always exceptions to the rule but our efforts are focused on trying to make sure that, before we do anything else, we give youngsters on our own doorstep, in our own part of the world, to show what they can do and get onto our programme.”
Walker, now of Tottenham Hotspur, made his latest appearance for Roy Hodgson’s side during Tuesday evening’s draw with Italy.
“Our scouts do excellent work,” Cox said. “But we’re also mindful of the fact that they can’t be everywhere.
“There’s always a tendency for clubs to look primarily at the best teams in the area. But there might be somebody out there who has so much ability and potential but prefers to play with his mates and so isn’t on the radar.
“There’s nothing wrong with that but we still want to give them the opportunity because opportunity is everything.”