Sheffield United: How The Blades are ensuring their goalkeeping department remains in rude health
Marcus Dewhurst has returned to Guiseley AFC on loan, after completing a work experience placement there last season.
With Michael Verrips joining Simon Moore and Dean Henderson on Sheffield United's roster, Chris Wilder has allowed the teenage goalkeeper to rejoin the National League North side in order to accelerate his development.
Earlier this summer, United were prepared to use Dewhurst as a back-up for Henderson and Moore, such is the manager's faith in his talents. But with Verrips arriving on a free transfer from KV Mechelen, coaching staff at Bramall Lane recognise opportunities for the youngster are likely to prove limited, meaning a switch to West Yorkshire is likely to prove more beneficial than an extended spell in United's under-23's.
Initially, Wilder and Dewhurst's representatives were exploring the possibility of placing him with a League Two or National League club. But when Guiseley made another approach for his services, they revised those plans after analysing their change in circumstances since the 18-year-old's previous spell there.
Then, The Lions were embroiled in what proved an unsuccessful battle against relegation. But the appointment of Russ O'Neill and former Grimsby Town chief Marcus Bignot has prompted a change in fortunes, with Guiseley now expected to challenge for an immediate return to the fifth tier of English football. That, United believe, will expose Dewhurst to a different kind of pressure to the one he previously experienced at Nethermoor Park. Hence their willingness to process the move.
Wilder has previously spoken about how sampling life beyond the English Football League can prove beneficial for players hoping to forge a career in the professional game. His words should convince Dewhurst that, rather than simply being parked at Guiseley, his switch actually forms part of a carefully drafted development plan designed to equip him with both the technical and psychological skills required to eventually challenge for United's number one jersey.
"Playing men's football if you like, proper football for points, is something you can't put a price on at that age," Wilder said earlier this year. "You're out there with people who know the result will make a real difference to them and that toughens you up. It helps you grow-up fast and gets you prepared for the challenges you're going to face later on."
United's goalkeeping department has undergone a major change in recent months, with Dewhurst's team mate and fellow Steelphalt Academy graduate Jake Eastwood heading for Scunthorpe in July. Eastwood is also highly regarded by Wilder, having made three senior appearances under his tutelage. But United's promotion to the Premier League meant it was imperative they had three proven deputies for Henderson, who is on loan from Manchester United. Moore, a member of United's League One title winning squad, has already shown himself to be capable of performing at the highest level. Verrips is also tried and tested, with the four year contract he was handed after leaving Belgium an indication that Wilder fears Henderson will eventually be spirited back to Old Trafford. A former England under-21 international, he is expected to start this weekend's home game against Southampton.
As The Star revealed, Mechelen recently carried out their threat to lodge a complaint with FIFA about the circumstances behind Verrips' transfer, with the player claiming their expulsion from the Europa League had effectively rendered his agreement null-and-void. But the protest is aimed at the player himself, not United, meaning his status will not be affected should the governing body rule in their favour.
"We can confirm that FIFA has received a claim lodged by the Belgian club against the player Michael Verrips, which is currently being analysed by FIFA," a spokesperson for the organisation said.
Eastwood, aged 22, started Scunthorpe's opening two games of the League Two campaign but has since been named on the bench as Paul Hurst's team attempt to lift themselves off the bottom of the table. Dewhurst, capped by England at youth level, could feature when Guiseley face Hereford on Saturday.