Chris Wilder calls them ‘session wreckers’: Players who, during training sessions, struggle to keep pace.
It a phrase those looking to make the grade at Bramall Lane best remember. And explains why, after impressing with their attitude and work ethic, three of Sheffield United’s brightest young talents will be joining the first team squad in Portugal next month.
“Regan (Slater), Rhys Norrington-Davies and Jake Eastwood are coming over with us,” Wilder confirmed last night. They are in the first team building, they change downstairs and they’ll be involved in our pre-season games. That’s because they’ve made that step-up, they’ve taken the same step David Brooks did this time last year and hopefully a few more out of the academy will be taking too. They’ll be travelling with us and are a part of the camp.”
United’s visit to The Algarve, where they will face Maritimo in a friendly, is arguably the most critical part of their preparations for the new Championship campaign. It is there, under the burning sun and in soaring temperatures, where coaching staff will look to equip them with the fitness levels required to implement the attack-minded game plan which, against all odds, took them to the brink of the top six last term.
Eastwood and Slater are already familiar faces, with the latter’s combative performance during an FA Cup tie at Ipswich capturing Wilder’s imagination. Norrington-Davies less so. But the defender, United’s manager suspects, has got what it takes.
Although they boast only five senior appearances between them, Wilder is minded to keep all three in South Yorkshire at the beginning of next season after watching Brooks, now a Wales international, make the breakthrough before last summer’s training camp in Spain.
Originally scheduled to join Chesterfield on loan, United cancelled the move after he impressed at the Toulon Tournament and were rewarded with a series of match-turning displays against the likes of Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday.
“I’ve always maintained the biggest learner for them isn’t me or Al barking at them,” Wilder, referring to his assistant Alan Knill, said. “It’s training with the likes of Couttsy (Paul Coutts) and Flecky (John Fleck) because they have to survive. I won’t have session wreckers as we call them. They’ve got to be up to the standard.”
“Brooksy was going out on loan and then forced his way in,” Wilder added. “That’s the example for these and the rest of the academy lads to follow because it shows what is possible and what can be done. How you can make the breakthrough.”