Sheffield United: Poland youngster Kacper Lopata receives a message from the boss

Kacper Lopata has been told he now “a part” of the Sheffield United squad pushing for promotion back to the Premier League after being recalled from Southend.

Sunday, 13th March 2022, 11:43 am

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An unused substitute during yesterday’s defeat by Coventry City, the Poland under-20 international had been scheduled to spend the rest of the season on loan with the National League club.

But with nine of his first team players receiving treatment for injuries before the game, manager Paul Heckingbottom told The Star he felt compelled to cut short the defender’s stay at Roots Hall.

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“We recalled Kacper, it was a necessity,” Heckingbottom said. “He is a part of our squad now. We are grateful to Southend, very grateful, for the work they have done with him.

“The experience he’s gained there, that is what will be invaluable to him. But we need Kacper back here now with us.”

Aged 20, Lopata made 18 appearances for Kevin Maher’s side after moving to Essex earlier this term. Harrison Neal, United’s promising young midfielder, will remain at Southend after Maher’s assistant Darren Currie, the nephew of Bramall Lane legend Tony Currie, helped foster an unofficial agreement between the two teams to work together on youth development.

With non-league sides not forced to adhere to the transfer window system, Heckingbottom acknowledged: “We could have sent Kacper into the (English Football) league but we kept him at Southend for this very reason.

Kacper Lopata of Sheffield United warms up before the Sky Bet Championship match at the Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry: Ashley Crowden / Sportimage

“We want to bring young players through and we are proud of our young players. We spoke about this the other day, that we need to start building their CV’s and their reputations. We want them to get into our team but not all of them will and so, if they can’t do that, we want to do that so they can go and have good careers elsewhere.”

Lopata made two appearances for United in the Carabao Cup earlier this season, under Heckingbottom’s predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic. One of those came against Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, with the former England international praising Lopata for his performance afterwards.

Heckingbottom’s men remained in the play-off positions despite being beaten 4-1 at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

Paul Heckingbottom says he felt compelled to recall the youngster from Southend: Ashley Crowden / Sportimage

“Southend play a different way to us,” said Heckingbottom, confirming striker Oli McBurnie is now a doubt for Wednesday’s trip to Blackpool after suffering a dead leg during the contest. “So Kacper will have learnt a lot.”

Lopata is set to travel to Bloomfield Road, where United hope John Fleck and Ben Davies could be available for selection after missing the game with City. But Rhian Brewster, David McGoldrick and Jayden Bogle have all been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign, while Chris Basham, George Baldock and Enda Stevens are among those still on the casualty list.

McBurnie is also unlikely to take part, meaning 36-year-old Billy Sharp and teenager Daniel Jebbison are now the only two recognised centre-forwards at United’s disposal.

“We just have to get on with it,” said Heckingbottom, who admitted conditions at United’s training complex are beginning to affect their preparations for games. “It is what it is. Everybody has to be ready to step up because there are some (players) we are also managing through situations now as well.”

Zak Brunt, Kyron Gordon and Kacer Lopata have all featured for Sheffield United this season: Simon Bellis / Sportimage