Jamal Blackman’s choice in music might have raised a few eyebrows among Sheffield United’s coaching staff.
But the youngster’s decision to swap a comfortable life with Chelsea in favour of a much tougher existence at Bramall Lane has already won Chris Wilder’s respect. And, as the United manager explained, impressed plenty of others behind the scenes.
“Him coming up the road, you see a lot of young players take an easy way out,” said Wilder, who gave a debut to Blackman in the Blades' opening day win over Brentford at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
“He could have stayed at Wycombe where he was last year and played 40 odd games. He could have gone back in at Chelsea and had his head rubbed every few weeks. But he’s come up to the north and fair play to him. He understands the challenge and he understands he needs to play well to stay in the team.”
Blackman, the former England under-19 international, spent last term on loan at Adams Park before, having agreed a new long-term contract with Antonio Conte’s side, moving to United until the end of the season. With fellow goalkeeper Simon Moore expected to return from injury next month and Jake Eastwood impressing during two recent friendlies, Blackman accepts he is not guaranteed first team football in South Yorkshire despite impressing on his competitive debut against Brentford last weekend.
Wilder, reflecting upon the 23-year-old’s recent initiation at the Steelphalt Academy, said: “He’s had a sing song, some rubbish modern song that they all seem to like these days. I didn’t get involved in any of that.
“Joking aside, he’s involved in the group and he’s a good kid. Jamal brings genuine competition and that’s what we wanted. Simon understands that. We had it last year, it drove Mooro on and I’m expecting all three of them to drive each other on this year.”
“There should be genuine competition there,” Wilder added. “It’s a big position. Depending upon the variables. I’ve always tried to have the best ‘two’ I could.
“That’s the message to everybody. I’m not saying, if something happens, he (Blackman) is out the team straight away. But I do want tough decisions to make with everybody.”