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Tug-o-war over Kyle Naughton

KYLE Naughton could find himself at the centre of an international tug-of-war after Sheffield United revealed that England and the Republic of Ireland have inquired about his availability.

Representatives from the FA and FAI contacted manager Kevin Blackwell after it emerged the teenager, who has only made 11 senior appearances for the South Yorkshire club, is eligible for both countries through family descent.

With the clamour for Naughton, a graduate of United's youth academy, to be included in the England squad for this month's under-21 friendly against the Czech Republic at Bramall Lane growing by the week, it appears their rivals across the Irish Sea are considering the possibility of fast-tracking him into Giovanni Trapattoni's set-up.

With Stuart Pearce, the coach charged with nurturing England's next generation, likely to use the visit of Ladislav Škorpil's side to prepare for June's European Championship's in Sweden, the timing of that match could prove problematic.

But as more Premier League scouts prepare to watch Naughton in action against Plymouth Argyle later today, Blackwell admitted: "Someone from England and someone from Ireland has been in touch. Kyle can play for either of them as far as I'm aware.

"He supported this club as a boy, he's been here since he was nine and so he's living the dream to some degree at present. But he's a level-headed kid and I think that's probably helped him to some degree.

"He looks as if he's always been involved at this level and long may that continue. But his next challenge now is to show that he can continue to do so."

Blackwell, keen to let Naughton develop away from the press' prying eyes, has placed the youngster under media blackout.

But with Aston Villa's Martin O'Neill the latest manager to check on his progress, Blackwell admits he is powerless to prevent speculation linking him with a move elsewhere at some stage in the future.

However, delivering a warning to Naughton's army of admirers, he said: "It's a compliment to the club and the work we are doing here but we're not looking to sell in any shape or form."

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