Blades Hungary for success

CLAIMS that Ferencvaros will prove to be the most profitable of Sheffield United's strategic alliances will be put to the test next month when Bramall Lane's first-team squad begin their European tour in Budapest.

The fixture, United's second visit to the Stadion Albert Flrin, is ostensibly to prepare them for the rigours of another gruelling Championship campaign.

But the match could also serve another purpose.

Having embraced the idea of entering the overseas transfer market, Kevin Blackwell and his coaching staff will also be keen to discover whether any members of Bobby Davison's side can be placed on a fast-track to England.

When Ferencvaros, who completed their NBII Eastern Division campaign with a 2-1 win over Baktaloranthaza last weekend, became the latest addition to United's ever-expanding collection of global partners it marked a new phase in the club's plans to identify fresh sources of talent.

White Star Woluwe, a Belgian Third Division side hailing from a prosperous suburb of Brussels, already enjoyed a long-standing agreement with United.

But the opportunity to purchase a troubled yet still prestigious club represented sporting and financial sense.

Despite failing to regain the top-flight status they lost in 2006 because of serious financial problems, Ferencvaros remain one of the most recognisable names in the European game, having won a remarkable 28 league titles and one European trophy during their 109-year existence.

With work-permit legislation making it difficult for United to import players from China, the prospect of establishing a high-profile European base was too tempting to resist.

"My personal belief is that Ferencvaros will turn out to be exceptionally worthwhile," Terry Robinson, the United director with special responsibility for the project, said recently.

"Ferencvaros are superbly located logistically and they have a superb reputation and standing in their own right.

"It's not too far for any of our young players we feel would benefit from the experience to go and, importantly, it is a club playing to a good standard in Europe where there is also lots of potential.

"We have links with academies in Poland and Spain and it should be easier in terms of red tape bringing some of those players to Hungary rather than sending them elsewhere if we feel that is the right thing to do for everybody concerned."

United have begun the process by placing Dramane Kamate, Kourouma Mohamed Lamine and Skou Tidiane Souare, three Ivorians previously parked in Chengdu, In Hungary.

If, as seems likely, they face United on July 14, then Blackwell will enjoy the chance to assess their capabilities first hand while the likes of Lszl Brettschneider, Igor Pisanjuk, Lszl Fitos, three of Davison's brightest young prospects, could also come under the microscope.

United, who have pledged to overhaul Ferencvaros' coaching and corporate infrastructure as well as develop a new 25,000-seater ground, will face Genk (July 16) and Helmond (July 19) before away days at Scunthorpe, Bury and Huddersfield.

With Hungary internationals Balzs Tth and Daniel Tozser joining former Bulgaria defender Tiago Silva at the Cristal Arena, United's foray into Flanders promises to be another challenging test.

Genk finished 10th in Belgium's Jupiler League last term and plan to invest heavily during the close season.

Helmond, whose Stadion De Braak holds just over 4,000 people, compete in Holland's second tier.

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