Sheffield United: My ambition is ‘Kler’ says young Blades star Heh, 18

Blades youngster Kler Heh battles against Stocksbridge's Harrison Biggins in a pre-season friendly. He later impressed after joining Steels on loan
Blades youngster Kler Heh battles against Stocksbridge's Harrison Biggins in a pre-season friendly. He later impressed after joining Steels on loan
  • United starlet Kler Heh, 18, was awarded a professional contract earlier this year
  • The Thai-born youngster impressed on loan at Stocksbridge Park Steels last season
  • Attacking midfielder has been with United since age of 14, after being recommended by anti-racism charity FURD
  • Heh was born in a Thai refugee camp and suffered huge culture shock after relocating to Sheffield
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He is a relative unknown who hopes to one day carry the hopes of millions on his shoulders.

But for the time being, 18-year-old youngster Kler Heh has another goal in mind; impressing new manager Nigel Adkins, and forcing his way into Sheffield United’s first-team plans.

“I now have the chance in pre-season to catch the new manager’s eye and show him what I can do,” Heh, who was handed a one-year professional deal at United in March, told The Star.

“Hopefully, I can show him that I am ready to take that next step.

“I know the new manager will be looking closely at each and every one of us, so this is my biggest pre-season to date and I can’t wait to get started.

“I have come through the ranks at United and will be looking to impress this season. I want to put in the performances, train harder than anybody else and make any sacrifices I have to, like going out on loan if the manager thinks it’s best for my learning and for my progress.”

Heh, a likeable youngster who describes himself as an attacking midfielder, earned his professional deal with United thanks largely to a string of impressive performances on loan at Stocksbridge Park Steels last season.

“That toughened me up,” he says, “and gave me vital experience and improved my confidence.

“I now feel I have the level of maturity to progress into the adult game.”

Make no mistake, Heh is made of strong stuff. Born in a Thai refugee camp in October 1996, he spent the first ten years of his life there after his family of Karen refugees faced oppression in their homeland of Burma.

Kler Heh in action for United

Kler Heh in action for United

His break came at the age of ten, when a group of Karen refugees were moved to Sheffield as part of the United Nations Gateway Protection Programme.

“The camp was like a prison,” Heh remembers.

“It seemed like there were no opportunities, no way out. But I played football every day, in bare feet, before we were resettled in England.”

Heh carried on playing football under the guidance of anti-racism charity FURD [Football Unites, Racism Divides] before coach Luis Silva recommended him to United, who signed him at the age of 14.

The refugee camp was like a prison. It seemed like there were no opportunities, no way out. But I played football every day, in bare feet, before we were resettled in England. I feel like I owe it to my community to become a successful football player.

Kler Heh

“Some friends told me about the FURD coaching at Sheffield United’s Academy on Sunday afternoons,” Heh said.

“So I went along and really enjoyed it - not just the football, but meeting new people and getting to know people from lots of different cultures.

“I really looked forward to it.

“Luis taught me a lot and I was soon playing three times a week.

“Coming from a South Asian background means that people in my community - especially the young people - do look up to me and support me throughout my journey.

“I feel like I owe it to them to become a successful football player.

Nigel Adkins has vowed to work closely with United's U21s and U18s next season

Nigel Adkins has vowed to work closely with United's U21s and U18s next season

“I’m not sure I am a role model just yet, but I hope to be one in the near future; for young aspiring footballers, of any background.

“I hope to show them that, no matter where you come from, you can succeed as long as you love what you do and are willing to work hard at it.”

Former Blades full-back Kyle Walker, now of Tottenham Hotspur and England, is FURD’s most notable success story but Liban Abdi and Aymen Tahar, amongst others, have also gone on to make careers in the game around the world.

“There is pressure sometimes on me, from family, to make sure I don’t lose focus, especially at such a young age,” Heh added.

“But I am determined and passionate to make football my main goal over the next couple of years and will do all it takes to get me there, with the continued support of my parents and friends.

“No matter what happens, I will always remember coming to Sheffield for the first time. It was such a culture shock.

“I didn’t speak any English and I’d never even seen a city before.

“There were so many big buildings, so many lights!”

If Heh can catch the eye of new Blades boss Adkins, they will only get brighter.