Louis Reed can already tackle better than his childhood hero, writes James Shield.
If he learns to pass with the same precision and purpose then Sheffield United will have a potential world-beater on their hands.
“For me, when I was growing-up, Paul Scholes was the ideal midfielder,” Reed said. “Both going forward and defensively although, admittedly, a few of his challenges were a little over-the-top.
“I still try to be like him now. I never get anywhere near his standard unfortunately. But hopefully one day I will.”
Reed, the latest talent to roll off the Redtooth Academy’s production line, has by his own admission made unusually rapid progress through the ranks since catching Nigel Clough’s eye during a Professional Development League fixture last term.
Six months and 10 appearances after making his senior debut against Rotherham, the 17-year-old is expected to feature in United’s squad when they stage another South Yorkshire derby, this time with Barnsley, at Bramall Lane tomorrow.
“Everything has happened very quickly,” Reed, speaking exclusively to The Star, acknowledged. “I started the season as a scholar and expected to be involved with the under-18’s mostly. Perhaps play a few games for the under-21’s.
“It’s been a whirlwind but I’m pleased with how things are going of course. Not many managers these days trust someone my age to come in and do a job at this level so he’s been great for me.
“Hopefully, if everything goes well, then we’ll be involved in near enough 60 games this season so there’s always the need to rotate. That keeps us performing. Keeps everyone fresh and gives us the best chance of winning matches.”
Avoiding practical jokes, not accumulating points, was Reed’s biggest concern when he was integrated into United’s first team squad.
“It was a real shock when I realised I was going to be training predominately with these lads,” he said. “I was really nervous because all my friends were in the under-18’s and I didn’t really know any of them at all.
“The biggest thing I was worried about was the pranks. I’m not going to lie, that really bothered me.
“But there was no need to worry because everyone has been brilliant with me. They’ve all looked after me really well.”
Michael Doyle, Reed’s captain and fellow midfielder, has been a particular source of encouragement.
“I do like Michael. He’s someone I really look up to as a person and a player so I’m fortunate that I get on with him really well.
“He’s good to be around on and off the pitch. I really enjoy working with him.
“Michael guides me through if I’m having a difficult period in a game and tells me what to do. Don’t get me wrong, he lets me know if I’m doing something wrong but it’s never anything over-the-top and if I do something well then he’s the first to give me a pat on the back out there. That means a lot because of the respect I’ve got for him.
“Because Michael is the captain, he’s always talking. Not only during the matches themselves but also when we’re training in the week.”
Clough, previously of Nottingham Forest, Manchester City and Liverpool, has naturally been another huge influence on Reed’s embryonic career. Capped 14 times by England, the United manager was regarded as one of the most intelligent forwards of his generation. But Reed has been forced to witness the skills which captured the imagination of his late father Brian, Graeme Souness and Sir Bobby Robson on celluloid rather than in the flesh.
“I never saw him play myself, I’m a little bit too young but don’t tell him that. My dad is always reminding me what a top player he was though and, I’ve got to say, he’s been brilliant with me.”
“Even during games, when I’m on the bench, he’s always talking to me and telling me what’s going on. He’s big on people studying the action rather than just sitting there having a laugh and a joke.
“He turns around and talks to me a lot in those situations. I’m fortunate because I’ve learned so much from that in the last few months.”
The knowledge acquired by Clough, Doyle and the rest of United’s staff during a combined total of 333 years at the coal face have proved an invaluable resource for Reed. Likewise the attention to detail which means United, sixth in the League One table following last weekend’s victory at Crewe Alexandra, enter their meeting against opponents managed by Clough’s predecessor Danny Wilson having registered four straight wins in all competitions.
“Louis has great potential,” Clough said. “We’ve seen that from him all along.
“The first thing we spotted was his ability on the ball. When he first worked with the first team he didn’t look out of place and that’s always a good marker.
“There aren’t many 17-year-olds playing in League One at the moment because, physically, it’s such a tough division. That’s why he’s still learning and, even though he’s only about four foot eight, he’s got to challenge for a few more balls in the air.”
“Louis won’t play every week but we’ll look after and protect him. Bring him through the right way but he knows that he’s got to play his part by working hard and trying to improve all aspects of his game too.”
Marc McNulty, Jamie Murphy and Ben Davies have also been wrapped in cotton wool following Tuesday’s Capital One Cup success over MK Dons. The trio were all substituted as United reached the quarter-finals of the competition, where they will face Southampton due to a combination of injury and fatigue.
Barnsley have opened talks with Manchester City about extending Devante Cole’s loan amid claims he could spend the second-half of the season attached to a Championship club.
Reed, who completed all 96 minutes of United’s fourth round tie at stadium:mk, said: “The most important thing when you are my age is being given a chance and being involved. Fortunately, I’ve been given that here and it’s one I aim to take and make the most of.”