Sheffield United: Why young duo’s move to Central Coast Mariners could prove an inspired decision
As Sheffield United supporters digested the news of Scott Hogan's arrival, an intriguing development involving two of Bramall Lane's next generation was taking place over 10,000 miles away.
Sam Graham and Stephen Mallon, aged 18 and 19 respectively, were today unveiled by Central Coast Mariners after agreeing to join the Australian side to further their development.
The deals, which were brokered following a recommendation by former United midfielder Nick Montgomery, evoke memories of Matthew Lowton's spell with Ferencvaros a decade ago; something the defender, now of Burnley, later attributed with equipping him with the qualities required to forge a top-flight career.
Although Graham and Mallon are unlikely to face the same challenges as Lowton, who recounted how he was once forced to hide in the dressing room as the Hungarian's own supporters set fire to a stand, being exposed to a different footballing culture and living half way around the world should prove an enriching experience.
Montgomery, who made 400 appearances for United before joining the Mariners in 2012, will also ensure they retain strong links with South Yorkshire during the course of their loans and remain embedded in the culture of their parent club.
"Monty said it’s a great league, a great experience," Mallon said. "He said nothing is guaranteed just because we have travelled from England but he knows we are good players and told us that we need to work hard to earn our chance.
"I’m here to play and work my way into the team and once that happens, I want to stay in the team. Hopefully I can put in some top performances and really kick on until the end of the season."
Graham, a towering young defender, and Mallon, capped by the Republic of Ireland at youth level, could make their debuts for the Mariners against Melbourne Victory this weekend. With the visitors second in the table, eight places above Mike Mulvey's team, the match could be a baptism of fire for the United duo.
But Graham, who also cited Montgomery's presence on Mulvey's coaching staff as a factor behind his decision, said: "I know that I need to train hard and work my way into the team and that’s the plan. This is an important stepping stone early in my career. I want to play as many games as I can.
"I want to thank the Mariners for giving us both the opportunity, we’re both young players, it’s a bit of a risk bringing in youth but we will repay that faith."