Sheffield United’s decision to recruit heavily during this summer’s transfer window will not stifle the development of home-grown talent, Nigel Clough has reassured the League One club’s hierarchy.
Instead, the United manager insisted, players such as Otis Khan and Connor Dimaio must be prepared to assume greater responsibility within his squad after being handed opportunities at senior level last term.
Clough, who also awarded a debut to 16-year-old Louis Reed and named fellow teenager Dominic Calvert-Lewin on the bench for January’s FA Cup tie against Aston Villa, placed the Redtooth Academy at the heart of his plan to regain United’s Championship status after being appointed as David Weir’s permanent successor eight months ago.
Despite the recent arrival of established professionals such as Andy Butler, Chris Basham and Jamal Campbell-Ryce, he told The Star: “If someone shows the right attitude and ability, then they will get their chance. It’s as simple as that.
“Bringing lads through the ranks, producing its own players, is something Sheffield United already enjoy an excellent reputation for and it’s an area we want to improve even further.
“But, and this is vitally important, opportunities will only be given to those who demonstrate they are worthy of them. That’s because character and application are absolutely key.
“Those who have done that haven’t been put in the side because they’re already in our own system. They’ve not given any favours or special treatment.
“They’ve made the progress they have on their own merits. And, providing they continue to show the same qualities, then they and others will be used again in the future.
“They will always be our first port of call.”
Clough, who has also signed Marc McNulty, Ben Davies, Chris Porter and James Wallace since guiding United to a seventh placed finish and into the FA Cup semi-finals last term, has a promising stable of young footballers at his disposal with Italy under-18 international Diego De Girolamo also joining Khan, Calvert-Lewin and Dimaio in the first team squad on occasion during the 2013/14 campaign.
Clough, previously of Derby County and Burton Albion, added: “If you look at our track record, everywhere we’ve been we’ve always been very big on youth. Our own academies, rather than the loan market, is where we look if there’s an injury for example and then it’s all down to the individual taking that opportunity.
“We’re looking to make some changes, as the work we’ve done so far highlights. But that principle won’t change.”