Alan Knill has begged, borrowed and sometimes stolen space in order to help improve his club’s players.
So, after joining Chris Wilder at Sheffield United last week, the new manager’s assistant is delighted to have a training complex he can finally call home.
“I’m looking forward to working at Shirecliffe,” Knill said. “We’ve been on park pitches and the like in the not so distant past. But I’m looking forward to having a good environment in which to work. And, trust me, it will be a working environment. We pride ourselves on how hard we work as a pair and we expect the same of everyone else. So that’s what it will be. A working environment.”
Together with Wilder, Knill defied the odds to help Northampton Town gain promotion from League Two earlier this year. Before Kelvin Thomas’ takeover averted the threat of financial oblivion at Sixfields, the pair found themselves preparing squads on a nearby athletics track or among joggers and dog walkers at the local park.
Although Wilder will use the transfer market to strengthen the options he inherited from predecessor Nigel Adkins earlier this month, Knill, the former Rotherham manager, said: “I started off as a youth coach. Whichever club I’ve been at, it’s always been an interest of mine. It’s part of our job, to bring young players through. I’ve seen other places where it’s not been the remit of the manager. But I believe it always should be. Supporters want to see it and, I always think, if someone comes through the ranks they get cut a little bit more slack. That’s the aim. There’s no point in having an academy if you are not going to use it. We will definitely be taking a big interest.
“I took (Stephen Quinn) Quinny from here when we were in trouble at Rotherham,” Knill added. “We’ve kept in touch since. At the time, it worked really well for him because he needed first team football and we got a great player; just look at his career and how he’s gone on. I like to develop players and hopefully we can continue that here.”