Sheffield United’s talented Academy squad have received advice from two former players who were ‘stars of tomorrow’ in the 1990s.
Kevin Sharp and Jamie Forrester were part of the Leeds United team that won the FA Youth Cup in 1993, beating a Manchester United side in the final that included David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Robbie Savage, the Neville brothers and Keith Gillespie.
Now both retired the pair, aged 36, were part of the Leeds Masters team that beat the Blades at the Arena on Sunday. Sharp, who had spells with Wigan, Scunthorpe and Huddersfield after leaving Leeds in 1995 said it is important the likes of Jordan Slew, Harry Maguire and Terry Kennedy continue to work hard: “Don’t get carried away. I was guilty of that.
“I was getting frustrated because I’d achieved so much at a young age that I wanted to play in the first team and I thought I should be in the first team.
“I had Tony Dorigo in front of me who was an England international. I played left-wing too and I had Gary Speed in front of me there.
“Sometimes I played centre-midfield where David Batty was. At that time Leeds had the best midfield in the Premier League, we’d just won the Championship so I was getting a bit ahead of myself.”
Forrester, who played for 12 clubs during his 19-year career, said: “The easy bit is getting there (in the first team). The hard bit is actually staying there and progressing and getting better.
“Sheffield United is a very good club but they’re in a division that they’re not used to so it could work out very well for these youngsters to get their Football League legs and kick on from there.”
Both were young professionals at Leeds while United’s Academy boss John Pemberton was a senior player. Forrester said Pemberton was someone he looked up to: “I was a young lad and he was a senior pro.
“He was one of the people who I listened to so it didn’t surprise me when someone like him goes into coaching.
“I was very fortunate to have a long career but the early years go very quick.
“Listen to the older players around you.”
Forrester and Sharp were the best of the best in their late teens. A European U18 Youth Championship with England was added to the FA Youth Cup triumph later that summer.
Sharp said: “I think we almost peaked at that age. We’d just won the European Championship and the Youth Cup and we couldn’t win anymore. It was phenomenal what we’d achieved. Consistency was the hardest part (in the first team). You’ve done well in the youth team, but no disrespect to that level, it is youth football. You have to adjust to the tempo and be a man.”