Teenager Nathaniel Crofts is the latest player to sign a deal at Sheffield United after impressing with the club’s Futures programme.
The 17-year-old - who comes from Shirecliffe, a stone’s throw from United’s SteelPhalt Academy - caught the eye with seven goals in five appearances in the HKL North Midlands Under 21 Development League.
Crofts will now train full time at United’s Academy, with other young scholars - including Brodie Litchfield, who became the first graduate from the Futures programme to sign a development contract with the League One club.
The scheme is delivered in partnership with Sheffield College, and is aimed at 16 to 18-year-olds who have previous experience of playing to an elite level and want to develop a career as a footballer, as well as those who want the business know-how to break into the football, sport and leisure industries.
Nick Cox, United’s Academy manager, added: “It is great to have a programme like this within the academy structure, and working in tandem with our youth team enables the opportunities for United Future players to impress and develop. Nat has and that’s the reason why he has been signed on a scholarship.
“Great credit must go to Lee Dunn who has designed and managed the football element of the programme.
“He has worked very closely with the staff at Sheffield College, most notably Jonny Wathen, to ensure that the players receive a great experience both on and off the pitch.”
Dunn, the Future programme’s head coach, added: “This is another positive step forward for the programme and not only excellent news for Nat but it really does show that the hard work and endeavour of the coaching staff is paying off. It’s ultimately what the programme was set up for and it is yet more proof that it is working.”
Students on the programme study for the BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport, Performance and Excellence and also spend time at United’s Shirecliffe academy.
The programme also provides the chance to achieve FA National Governing Body qualifications.
Heather Smith, principal at Sheffield College, added: “This is a great programme that equips students with the broader vocational knowledge and skills needed for a career in the football, leisure and sports industries, as well as the chance to go on to further degree level studies at college or university.”
United, meanwhile, entertain Crewe at home tomorrow (3pm).