Sheffield United: Why Chris Wilder wants closer ties with neighbouring clubs
Sheffield United are aiming to forge closer links with their lower league neighbours in a bid to accelerate the development of Bramall Lane's best young players.
Chris Wilder and his staff are understood to have been working on the plan for a number of weeks, with the United manager choosing to watch Chesterfield during the recent international break rather than assess potential transfer targets.
Although that decision suggests he will focus on proven rather than up-and-coming talent during next month's transfer window, Wilder's visit is also likely to have marked the first stage of a charm offensive aimed at strengthening ties between the two clubs.
Despite being encouraged by the progress the likes of Regan Slater, Tyler Smith and Sam Graham have made since leaving South Yorkshire on loan, United's coached would prefer the next phase of Steelphalt Academy graduates to be placed with teams closer to home.
Slater is currently being tutored by Wilder's friend John Sheridan at Carlisle while Graham is approaching the half way stage of his season long agreement with Oldham Athletic. Smith and his United team mate Rhys Norrington-Davies are impressing for Barrow in the National League.
"The experience of doing what they're doing will be invaluable for these boys," Wilder said. "They'll learn so much from being in that competitive environment, with good people around them."
United have worked closely with Chesterfield in the past, with Louis Reed joining them on a temporary basis before departing for Peterborough earlier this year. David Brooks, now of AFC Bournemouth, had been scheduled to move to Derbyshire before Wilder aborted that deal; preferring to keep the Wales international with United instead. After impressing in the Championship last term, he completed a multi-million pound move to the Vitality Stadium in July.
Jordan Hallam, aged 20, joined Martin Allen's side on loan last month and scored on his debut against Eastleigh. It was telling that Adrian Whitbread, Allen's assistant, described Wilder as a "good friend" of the former Barnet chief following Hallam's arrival.
"We just felt it was great that they're willing to loan players out to us and we think it'll be great for the player himself," Whitbread added.
Wilder has also commissioned reports on Harvey Gilmour and Callum Semple, who are on loan with Tranmere Rovers and Queen of the South respectively.
"Playing senior football, proper football, will teach these lads a lot," he said. "Whenever someone goes out, we always make sure that we receive details on how they are doing as part of the deal. Those are provided on a regular basis and, on top of that, we always try to have them watched in person wherever possible."