Sheffield United: Blades midfielder completes move after impressing on loan

Harrison Neal has become the latest Sheffield United youngster to join Southend, after impressing on loan for Kettering Town.

Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 3:41 pm

The midfielder, whose team mate Regan Slater interests Hull City and Wigan Athletic, has performed well since moving to Latimer Park earlier this season and scored during Sunday’s 3-1 win over National League North leaders Brackley Town.

Although United were delighted with Neal’s development under Paul Cox, Kevin Maher, his counterpart in Essex, has been tracking the 20-year-old’s progress and used the prospect of competing at a higher level to lure him to Roots Hall.

Maher, whose assistant Darren Currie enjoyed a spell in co-charge of Bramall Lane’s development squad last term, has already used his employers’ connections with South Yorkshire to recruit Zak Brunt and Kacper Lopata with the duo both impressing on the coast.

Notts County acquired Brunt after his three month spell at Southend, who recently saw their transfer embargo lifted by the governing body, ended. Maher’s team are 20th in the National League while County are sixth. But Lopata will return following injury.

Speaking earlier this month, United manager Paul Heckingbottom explained why allowing the most promising graduates of his club’s youth programme to join non-league sides is such an attractive prospect given the more flexible nature of registration contracts outside of the English Football League.

“If we use Zak and Kacper for example,” he said, “If they stayed out at Southend then the fact they’ve been there a while as soon as they re-sign on a youth loan it’s a 24 hour recall.”

“But I wouldn’t call them back just to be on our bench and take games away from them,” Heckingbottom continued. “It would only be if they were needed.”

Sheffield United midfielder Harrison Neal has impressed since joining Kettering Town on loan: Peter Short

Cox was keen to retain Neal’s services and the player himself has been pleased with his progress under the former County defender.

“I am loving it here,” he told the Northamptonshire Telegraph following his strike against Brackley. “I’m loving every minute of it. “I think it’s helped me as a player.”

Kettering climbed to 10th as a result of that victory and face eighth placed Alfreton Town this weekend.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has a decision to make regarding midfielder Harrison Neal, who interests Southend United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage