Sheffield United: The story behind Kieran Dowell's journey from Everton to Bramall Lane
It was at the beginning of last season, after watching his goal propel Nottingham Forest to a narrow victory over Sheffield United, when Chris Wilder truly became aware of Kieran Dowell's potential.
The Everton and England under-21 international, after being placed at the City Ground to continue his development, was already a name on most Championship managers' lips.
But it was a calm first-half finish, following Jason Cummings' equaliser, which captured the imagination of Bramall Lane's coaching staff and persuaded them to take a closer interest.
Earlier today, after confirming Dowell's signature on loan until the end of the campaign, Wilder explained the announcement marked the end of a five month process involving character references, a whistle-stop trip to Edinburgh and clandestine meeting on Merseyside.
"When you see players in the same division on loan, you keep a track of them and keep an eye on their progression," the United manager said. "He's a player we've admired for quite a long time.Â
"He had a good pre-season and played for the England under-21's. It's an achievement to get in that team because there are good players all over the pitch.
'We first tried to get him in the summer but, because he'd been doing well, the manager up there wanted him in and around the first team for five months or so."
Although Marco Silva eventually went in a different direction, acquiring the likes of Richarlison and Bernard, Young Lions head coach Aidy Boothroyd and former Forest manager Mark Warburton proved a mine of information as United, already well-briefed on his ability, researched Dowell's character.
"He was close to getting in Everton's first team but then they brought in some players and that pushed him down the pecking order," Wilder explained, revealing he watched the midfielder score for Boothroyd's side against Scotland in October. "We tried in the summer but there was no joy. Then the door opened.
"Yes, and I spoke to Aidy too," Wilder continued, when asked if he had canvassed Warburton. "I know him.Â
"We spoke to quite a few people who have played with Kieran as well.Â
"That level is so covered now, so that confirms their ability and you don't want to miss anything. You don't need 10 'confirmers' if you like. But everyone has spoke so highly of him. We're delighted to get it done.
"He's done really well for the under-21's too and we went up to Tyncastle to keep tabs not so long back."
Dowell, aged 21, trained with United for the first time this morningÂ but will watch tomorrow'sÂ game against Blackburn Rovers from the stands before making his debut for the club when Barnet visit South Yorkshire in the FA Cup next month.
Primarily signed to provide competition and cover for fellow midfielder Mark Duffy, Dowell has made two senior appearances for Everton this term; against Rotherham and Southampton in the EFL Cup.
With a number of other teams known to be interested in securing the player's services, Wilder explained United's coverage on satellite television had worked in their favour. Dowell, who scored 10 goals in 43 appearances for Forest, is also a good friend of on-loan goalkeeper Dean Henderson.
"We've always had to work hard, to meet people, to talk and show," Wilder said. "One good thing is that our performances get covered very well nationally.Â
"He's obviously seen how we play and he's enjoyed it. The coverage has not done us any harm. I know sometimes we all have a moan and a groan but that's a positive for us."