The words “blooding youngsters” were once so common as to be a cliche. When was the last time you heard them used?
It’s a tragedy of the modern game, via the insane pressures on managers, that there’s scarcely a window in which to display and test a promising young talent these days. Because a “window” usually means bringing in a loan player for a short-term fix.
And even when the season becomes a dead-duck mid-table affair, as for many right now, it’s only a very brave boss who dares risking a few defeats for the sake of looking towards next season. Because he might not be there.
This, for me, is an emphatic answer to those who suggest Sheffield United should replace Nigel Clough if promotion is not won. While recent results have fallen short, Clough has felt secure enough up to now to consider the future as well as the present. And so he should.
On the opening day of the season he brought in a highly promising 17-year-old, Louis Reed. He has signed and played 18-year-old Che Adams, who scored twice against Spurs in the Capital One Cup. There’s Kieran Wallace, too, and a good academy product in Terry Kennedy. Some of this might seem like “jam tomorrow” but there’s another unseen benefit. As Greg Fee, a former pro across the other side of the city, said to me the other day: “It has a hugely uplifting effect on the academy when a kid makes the first team. All the others are thinking ‘that could be me.’”