Sheffield United: Kieran Dowell reveals the moment he knew he wanted to join Chris Wilder's team

Long before Chris Wilder launched his charm offensive, Kieran Dowell was already sold on the idea of joining Sheffield United.

Monday, 31st December 2018, 2:07 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 9:13 am
Kieran Dowell: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Playing against them last term, during a spell on loan with Nottingham Forest, had first piqued the Everton midfielder's interest. But some kind words from two of his Goodison Park team mates truly helped seal the deal.

"Dominic Calvert-Lewin is one of my really good friends and he was always telling me good things about the city and the club," Dowell, speaking over breakfast at the Steelphalt Academy, explains. "Obviously he came through the system here, the same as Phil Jagielka, who is a real legend in these parts. He came to one of the matches recently, Sheffield Wednesday I think it was, and was buzzing about the atmosphere. Both Jags and Dom are absolutely top lads so, when I heard them chatting the way they do about the place, I knew it was somewhere that would be good for me."

Everton's Phil Jagielka started his career with Sheffield United

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Talking to Dowell as he tackles his tea and toast, one gets the impression he always felt destined to represent United. After first being approached during the close season - "With a new manager coming in there, it probably wasn't the right timing" - Marco Silva eventually sanctioned his departure, albeit on a temporary basis, following a fresh round of talks before Christmas.

Although Dowell met Chris Wilder to discuss United's proposal and his potential role at Bramall Lane, the 21-year-old admits he was already minded to accept after being impressed by their intensity during a visit to the City Ground 16 months ago.

"When Sheffield United came there then, it felt suffocating playing again them," Dowell, whose goal eventually propelled Forest to victory, remembers. "I remember speaking afterwards with my mates saying that it would be great to play for Sheffield United. Football-wise, it is them and Wolves who played the best football. I always had that in my mind in my thinking when I had a few options for January."

Dowell, whose move will be processed following tomorrow's trip to Wigan Athletic, sees similarities between United and his employers in the North-West. Both are from two club cities and both, although Sheffield Wednesday and Liverpool would almost certainly disagree, possess very different personalities to their neighbours and fiercest rivals.  

So di Dominic Calvert-Lewin

"Speaking to the manager, that was one of the first things he said, about how United have been down into League One and there was always that rivalry and they are doing better than Wednesday," Dowell continues. "But also that they're a bit more modest and happy to be in that position. 

"Obviously, we beat Wednesday (last season) and it is a huge game. It is always nice to have those sort of games in the season. 

"Last season, at Forest, it was almost like rival cities. Now it is in the city and you see fans of both clubs walking around rather than just one lot of shirts."

Dowell, like Wilder, suspects that combination of attitude and environment makes him a good fit for a United squad which travelled to Greater Manchester earlier today fourth in the table. A lifelong Evertonian, the youngster also believes the connections between the two teams stretch beyond personnel and psyche.

Kieran Dowell jas joined Sheffield United on loan: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Citing the fact United are managed, captained and co-owned by fans, Dowell continues: "I think it is great to have that in a club. There are not many nowadays that do have them. 

"Obviously, Billy Sharp is a Sheffield United legend and the gaffer is as well. I think it just brings that connection with the fans that little bit more and they are living what the fans want to do. That's a powerful thing to have.

"I am an Everton fan and you will not find many families that aren't split in Liverpool. My dad's side are Liverpool and my mum's are Everton. My grandad swayed me to be an Everton fan and that's how it all started. It is similar in that way here."

Although Dowell acknowledges it will be difficult to command a place in Wilder's starting eleven, he will draw upon his experiences at Everton's Finch Farm training complex to help press his case. However he does let slip, despite ostensibly being signed to compete with Mark Duffy, that United's coaching staff have also investigated a system which employs them both.

"There's been a massive turnover at Everton over the last few years. But in the meantime, there have been so many good players who have come and gone such as John Stones, Ross Barkley and (Romelu) Lukaku. Now there's Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison. There are always loads of good players at Everton who are an influence.

"Having Jags and Leighton Baines as experienced heads, even though they are not in my position, is great too. They know what it is about, They are nice to lean on sometimes."

Dowell, a member of the England squad which lifted the under-20 World Cup last year, arrives with plenty of pedigree having also been capped at under-21 level. It was during the Young Lions' march towards next year's European Championship finals that he struck-up a friendship with Dean Henderson; United's on-loan goalkeeper.

"Deano is always going on about how good it is here, how great the crowd and the lads are," he smiles. "It's always good to see a familiar face when you go somewhere new and the boys have really helped me settle in quickly. I can't wait to get out there now."

Dowell's first opportunity in a United jersey is expected to come this weekend, when United host Barnet in the FA Cup third round.

"I am a young lad who has had one loan already and I am looking to make that next step to bridge the gap to the Premier League," Dowell says. "I do not think there is a better place to do it than here."