“The thing about Ethan was that I don’t think he realised just how good he could be,” the former Sheffield United manager said. “Yes, he was young and yes, he made some mistakes. But that was inevitable at such an early stage of his career.”
Blackwell, who spent two-and-a-half years at Bramall Lane before parting company with the club in 2010, first spotted Ebanks-Landell’s potential during a spell in charge of Bury four seasons ago.
Having signed the centre-half on loan Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackwell awarded Ebanks-Landell his professional debut during a league fixture against Colchester and, after a few psychological pointers, watched him become a mainstay of the Greater Manchester club’s defence. It marked the start of a relationship which continues to this day and recently prompted the 24-year-old to describe Blackwell as one of the biggest influences on his career.
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“The key was to give him that confidence and let him know just what he can bring to the team,” Blackwell told The Star earlier this week. “Hopefully we helped him do that. It’s certainly no surprise to see him doing so well now.”
Blackwell has tracked Ebanks-Landell’s progress since his return to Molineux and is delighted to see him excelling for United after moving to Bramall Lane on a temporary contract in August. Chris Wilder’s side, who hope to strike a permanent deal with Wolves when that agreement expires, have kept nine clean sheets since his arrival in August while, at the opposite end of the pitch, he has scored five goals.
“Ethan, for me, is at the right club for him,” Blackwell continued. “Because of the way he plays and the type of guy he is, I think Sheffield United suits him down to the ground. He knows I’ll always be on the other end of the phone if he needs me and I knew United would be a brilliant place for him to go.
“Certain clubs need to play certain ways and the fans at United are getting what they want now; hard-work, honesty and absolute commitment. That’s why Ethan, who has been a big part of the success there this season, was always going to fit in.”
Ebanks-Landell is set to make his 100th career appearance when the League One leaders host Gillingham tomorrow.
“Ethan is an absolutely top notch bloke too,” Blackwell added. “He’s a credit to himself and his family, he really, really is. There are people in the game that you just want to see do well because they are just so nice and grounded. Ethan is definitely one of those.”
Blackwell, now assistant manager at Cardiff City, remains proud of his record in South Yorkshire having served as Neil Warnock’s number two before taking the reins himself following spells with Luton Town and Leeds.
“I’d like to think that I’ve got a good track record of bringing youngsters through and giving them an opportunity,” Blackwell said. “ At United, there was the two Kyles (Walker and Naughton) for example, Matthew Lowton and Harry Maguire who I brought into the reserve team. The key, and this was also the case with Ethan, is getting them used to the first team surroundings, knowing when to put them in and maybe when to leave them out or send them on loan to gain experience. Wolves actually came to us, after looking at how Ethan had come on, and asked if they could send some more lads on loan to us. But, because of the finances at the time, we couldn’t do it which was a shame.”