Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has predicted Joe Riley will have a critical role to play between now and the end of the season despite finding opportunities limited since arriving at Bramall Lane.
The youngster, on loan from Manchester United, appeared as a late substitute at Peterborough last weekend but could make his full debut against Bristol Rovers tomorrow night.
Although Riley’s game-time has been restricted by the form of Daniel Lafferty and Kieron Freeman, Wilder said: “Joe has been brilliant in training, you can see the quality he’s got.
“It’s nice to know that we’ve got that here and, because of that, I’d have no qualms about putting him in.
“Importantly, he’s already got the respect of the lads around him because they can see his attitude is right. We’ve got a really good group here, people who want to work hard for the football club and their team mates. Joe’s been looking really sharp during the week.”
As The Star revealed last month, Nicky Butt, the former Manchester United midfielder turned academy coach, was instrumental in helping Wilder acquire Riley’s services when the 20-year-old asked to leave Old Trafford on loan.
Butt, who was capped 39 times by England, refused to demand any guarantees about regular football when he sanctioned Riley’s move and Wilder said: “We’re in constant contact with them about how Joe is getting on, the same as we are with the lads we’ve got out on loan.
“They didn’t put any clauses in the deal because, credit to them, they recognise that’s not how football works.
“Joe is a quality player.
“Hhe’s got lots of talent and his time will come, I’ve got no doubts about that.
“He wanted to come here and we wanted to bring him in.”
United face fellow promotion contenders Scunthorpe and Bolton Wanderers after returning from the Memorial Stadium and Wilder said: “We’ll have to keep fresh and use the squad, that’s why we’ve got one. Everyone has got to be ready and prepared.”