Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson has challenged Erik Tonne to use his loan spell with Blue Square Conference Premier side York City as a springboard into the first team at Bramall Lane.
Despite being dispatched to Bootham Crescent for the rest of the season, the Norwegian winger is among a clutch of players Wilson believes have the potential to forge successful careers in South Yorkshire.
Tonne, whose last appearance for United was three months ago, is expected to make his debut for Gary Mills’ side when they face fellow promotion hopefuls Grimsby Town this weekend.
With United chasing an instant return to the Championship, the 20-year-old would have suffered from a dearth of opportunities had he remained at Shirecliffe, but Wilson said: “You can’t beat playing competitive football when it comes to building someone’s experience.
“Playing against hardened professionals for points is, ultimately, what it’s all about.
“When, in some cases, people’s careers and livings are on the line, it’s an excellent learning curve.
“What Erik has got to do now is soak all of that up and put the knowledge he gleans to good use when he comes back.”
Mills, a former teammate of Wilson at Nottingham Forest, revealed he needed to persuade United that City could provide the right environment for Tonne to flourish.
“I spoke with Danny and they (United) were a bit reluctant to let Erik come out,” he said. “Nevertheless, they feel it is right for him to come here and that’s great for us.
“Erik is a good player and he’s hungry to do well in this country.”
Tonne has hit the target twice for United this term. Having opened his account in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success over Burton Albion, he also produced a superb finish in the League One rout of Bury.
“We need another midfielder and someone who can score us goals from that area,” added Mills.
“That’s why we brought Erik here.
“We feel as if he can create too because he’s a good crosser of the ball and obviously knows where the net is.”
With last weekend’s game against Colchester postponed due to a frozen pitch at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, United return to League One action when they host Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday.
Wilson’s charges, who are fourth in the table, trail second-placed Sheffield Wednesday by four points but have played two matches less than their arch-rivals.
With a visit to third placed Huddersfield Town following hot on the heels of their outing against Wanderers, United’s margin for error is uncomfortably slim.
Hence, Wilson’s preference for deploying tried and tested names rather than gambling on youth and inexperience.
Nevertheless, as the decision to offer Danny Philliskirk a new contract demonstrates, Wilson’s conservative selection policy should not be interpreted as a slight on those looking to progress through the ranks.
David McAllister, the United midfielder, has impressed since joining Shrewsbury Town on loan last month and could extend his stay at Greenhous Meadow.
Wilson, speaking soon after McAllister’s move to Shropshire, said: “David is scheduled to stay there for a month but, depending upon the situation, could stay there for longer.”