Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has reassured supporters that sentiment will not influence his team selections despite placing the academy at the heart of plans to help the League One club regain its identity.
Wilder, who dismantled the squad which finished 11th in last season’s table after taking charge six weeks ago, believes United have both a moral and a financial obligation to promote from within after investing heavily in their youth programme.
Although the 48-year-old thinks home-grown talent can help accelerate his bid to transform attitudes behind the scenes - “We only want people who care about the place and, if you’ve come through the system, you’ve already got that association” - Wilder said: “We put a lot of money into the academy and we have to use it. But they have to be good enough. I’m not going to put them out there if they’re not because that compromises my position and it can kill them. But there’s a few who we believe a good enough to kick on. They have done well at under-18 and under-21 level for a reason.”
Despite refusing to criticise the methods employed by his predecessor Nigel Adkins - “We all have different ideas and different approaches” - Wilder suspects United’s disappointing results during the 2015/16 campaign were symptomatic of an overly scientific approach which underestimated the importance of attitude and character.
His first task after being officially unveiled was to watch to United’s under-21’s contest the Professional Development League Two play-off final with Huddersfield Town. Coach Travis Binnion has since been confirmed as the Steelphalt Academy’s new manager following the departure of Nick Cox.
Ben Whiteman, who made his full senior debut in March, later described failing to win promotion as “the worst feeling in the world” following a defeat at Coventry City.
“I’ve been impressed with Trav because he wants to win,” Wilder said. “He doesn’t get too caught up with formations and all of that. He wants winning footballers. Everyone wants structure, a bit of style and good football. But, most of all, we all want to win. The lads who come through can bring that attitude with them.”
Meanwhile, former United captain Jay McEveley has joined Ross County.
Last season’s Scottish League Cup winners, who are based in Dingwall, yesterday unveiled the defender as their fifth new summer signing following the arrival of Kenny van der Weg, Christopher Routis, Aaron McCarey and Erik Cikos at the Global Energy Stadium.
McEveley, aged 31, has agreed a two year contract with Jim McIntyre’s side after being released by Wilder during his recent cull of the club’s playing staff. Despite being born in Liverpool, McEveley was capped by Scotland on three occasions earlier in his career.