HAVING progressed through a famed academy system which has also spurned Dean Ashton, Robbie Savage and David Platt, Sheffield United striker Shaun Miller knows a thing or two about good young talent.
And the 24-year-old, who was plucked from the Crewe Alexandra production line by Danny Wilson in a £60,000 move last month, insists there are similarities between the respective youth set-ups at Gresty Road and Bramall Lane.
“With Crewe, the whole focus of the club is on the academy,” Miller, who joined Crewe at the age of seven.
“And the set up, for what was a League Two club last season, is unbelievable. There’s a massive scope there to bring players through the academy and also to play them, to make them well known.
“They bring you up to play you, and then to sell you on, so you know that you’re going to get played.
“A few lads came through the age groups and played in the first team last season at Crewe, and I’m sure that’ll happen here [at United].
“If it does, I know what they’re going through so if I can advise them, that’s got to be a good thing.”
Under Dario Gradi, the Railwaymen established a reputation as one of English football’s most renowned nurseries and the club are understood to have made as much as £20m from the sales of their young stars – most recently Nick Powell, who moved to Manchester United.
But under their own academy supremo John Pemberton, United have carved a stellar reputation for themselves, too – Harry Maguire, a star of United’s run to the FA Youth Cup Final two seasons ago, will start the season as Danny Wilson’s first-choice centre-half, and other youngsters such as Elliott Whitehouse, Callum McFadzean and Joe Ironside are expected to play their part.
Another of United’s new signings, Tony McMahon, captained a young Middlesbrough team to the 2003-04 FA Youth Cup title – including stars like David Wheater and Adam Johnson.
“I was in the canteen at the United training ground shortly after signing, and I was looking at all the players on the wall,” 26-year-old McMahon added.
“The number of players that have come through this academy is amazing, the same as it is at Middlesbrough. I was one of them in 2004, and it was a good upbringing.”
He added: “There are some good young players coming through at United and I’m just pleased to be part of it.”