Sheffield United: Damning verdict on youngster's loan move

Joining Beerschot on loan hampered rather than helped Sheffield United youngster Femi Seriki’s development, manager Paul Heckingbottom admitted last night.

Friday, 18th February 2022, 11:00 am

Seriki was recalled from Belgium before Christmas after playing only six minutes of football for United’s sister club, despite being scheduled to spend the rest of the Jupiler Pro League season in Antwerp.

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His experiences at the Olympisch Stadion are likely to prompt a review of how youngsters from Bramall Lane’s youth programme are routinely encouraged to consider moves to Beerschot, who are fighting a battle against relegation following a chaotic start to the campaign.

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Heckingbottom provided a brutally frank assessment of Seriki’s time there after being asked for his thoughts by The Star, saying: “Femi, it definitely wasn’t a successful loan. In my eyes and in Femi’s eyes. He didn’t play and he’s missed a lot of development, which is a big sense of frustration for me because that’s what it’s all about - development and actually playing. He’s effectively missed six months of that and maybe also suffered a little dent in confidence.”

Seriki, aged 18, made his debut for United towards the end of last season - appearing as a substitute during their Premier League visit to Newcastle as Heckingbottom prepared to relinquish caretaker charge. Slavisa Jokanovic allowed the wing-back to head to Beerschot after being appointed last summer. But he also expressed disappointment at how Seriki was being treated before being sacked in November. Rhys Norrington-Davies, Daniel Jebbison and Regan Slater, now of Hull City, are all understood to have declined invitations to spend time with the Belgians over the past 18 months.

Femi Seriki warms up at St James' Park, Newcastle, before making his Premier League debut: Darren Staples / Sportimage

Jebbison and Norrington-Davies are both expected to feature in the squad which faces Swansea City tomorrow, as United hope to take another step towards play-off qualification. They have prepared for the match in eighth, two points behind sixth-placed Middlesbrough. Nottingham Forest, in seventh, face AFC Bournemouth tonight.

With Seriki now eligible for selection at United, Heckingbottom is beginning the process of repairing his self-belief, adding: “He can play in the games now, which is great, so we’ll be working really hard with him to get him up to speed. It’s good that he can play and he’ll benefit from doing that here with us.”

Femi Seriki of Sheffield United makes his debut and replaces Jayden Bogle of Sheffield Utd during the Premier League match at St. James's Park: Darren Staples / Sportimage
Femi Seriki is now back at Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage