SHEFFIELD UNITED: John Pemberton loss would be blow

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SHEFFIELD United could task John Stephenson, the club’s head of recruitment, to identify their next academy director if John Pemberton takes charge of Crawley Town.

Pemberton had been expected to implement the new Elite Player Performance Plan - a controversial Premier League driven reform of youth development - at Shirecliffe next season as United attempt to build on the success of last year’s FA Youth Cup final squad.

But with the former defender’s long-term future at Bramall Lane now plunged into doubt, senior figures at Bramall Lane will already have started the process of identifying potential successors.

Stephenson, an influential figure behind the scenes at United, is likely to be handed the job of headhunting Pemberton’s replacement.

The Star understands Town are confident they will be granted permission to hold talks with the 47-year-old, after lodging an official approach yesterday.

Crawley’s interest represents an unwanted distraction as United look to increase the number of home grown players in their squad.

Harry Maguire, a member of the team beaten over two legs by Manchester United, is established at first team level while Joe Ironside and Matthew Harriott have joined their colleague in Malta.

Another member of the class of 2011 - Elliott Whitehouse - would have travelled had he not sustained a foot injury during last week’s friendly against Ilkeston.