Harry Darling: Who is Sheffield United 'target' and why do Swansea City, Brighton want MK Dons man?
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While many Blades fans would like to sign Scott Twine from Stadium MK, after the 22-year-old scored 20 goals from midfield as MK qualified for the League One play-offs, reports have credited Heckingbottom with an interest in centre-half Harry Darling.
But who is he, why are United interested and where else may he end up this summer?
A member of Cambridge United’s youth system since he was 12, Darling left a year later and returned to playing with his mates at Newmarket Town’s U14s.
After leaving college unsure about his future direction in life, Darling was invited back to Cambridge by a coach and grabbed his second chance with both hands, earning a scholarship before playing over 50 times for the first team.
“It is probably a different story to most other boys that make it which makes it quite a good one,” Darling told SuffolkNews. “To look back at it, it is a dream really.”
A cut-price move to MK Dons followed, with Darling approaching the end of his contract, and he wasted no time making an impression at his new club. Signing in January, he won the young player of the year award in his first season and in 2021/22, he was named in the League One team of the season.
What’s he like, and why may United want him?
A highlights video on the player’s own Twitter profile tells the story better than anything, showing a young man good in the tackle but most impressive on the ball. His range of long passing is superb – almost scoring from around the halfway line in one game after spotting the goalkeeper off his line – and he also looks incredibly comfortable driving forward with the ball at his feet.
With Chris Basham turning 34 this summer, it’s tempting to wonder if United’s coaching staff see Darling as a potential successor to Basham’s throne. The main man has just signed a two-year deal, and what better role model to learn the Basham role at right centre-half than the man himself?
At five foot 11 inches, Darling isn’t the tallest but his stats suggest he is closer in profile to Basham than, say, John Egan at the centre of United’s middle three. Despite his relative lack of stature, however, his defensive output also stacks up well against Basham and Egan, allowing for the drop in standard between Championship football and League One.
He also would offer something of a goal threat, having scored 10 times for MK last season from centre-half.
Who else wants him?
Swansea City and Brighton and Hove Albion have also been credited with an interest in Darling. A social media post at the end of last season saw him thank MK fans and add “see you all next season”, but will his club receive an offer they believe is too good to turn down?