Why the possibility of Sheffield United moving training grounds was been raised ahead of their game against West Ham

Chris Wilder has outlined his desire to see Sheffield United achieve category one academy status if they establish themselves at Premier League level, despite acknowledging it could eventually force a move away from their Shirecliffe training complex.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 4:58 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th January 2020, 5:05 pm

Wilder was speaking after reiterating his commitment to producing home-grown talent, despite figures revealing United have yet to select a player aged 21 or under in the competition this term.

Explaining why that statistic is misleading without being placed into context, Wilder, who has twice delivered promotion since being appointed United manager in May 2016, said: “We were in a situation a few years ago where we had to move our best players on to get out of League One and of course Premier League clubs were coming in for them.

“It’s an experienced team and it knows its job. Every Premier League team is a category one.

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“We are a category two. If we manage to get a foothold in the division, then we can get to a category one. Possibly (we can get into ) training ground moves too, because of the lack of space that we have here. That could help to get to category one.”

Achieving that status would require a huge investment on the part of United and their owners, meaning Wilder’s employers are likely to focus their efforts on bolstering his squad for the time being at least.

But taking a longer-term view, Wilder believes it is imperative they address the challenges new guidelines which allow clubs such as Manchester City and Manchester United to harvest youngsters from South Yorkshire present for those working on United’s own youth programme.

“And we are in an area that is getting dominated by the likes of Manchester City, with what they can offer players and their parents,” Wilder continued. “For young players now, to break into first team level, it is hugely difficult.

Coach Darren Ward talks to Dean Henderson at Sheffield United's Steelphalt Academy training complex, in Shirecliffe, Sheffield: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“If you take Manchester City, through recruitment, fees, education, private schools, everything else, the money they have spent will be eye-watering. And there is one (Phil Foden), who I am sure will go on to be a great player and play many more games. But he’s the only one there at the moment.”

Historically, United have been leaders in the field of youth development with the likes of Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Phil Jagielka, who is set to be in the squad which faces West Ham tomorrow, all progressing through their system.

But the conveyor belt has slowed in recent years; a situation Wilder believes can be attributed to United rapid rise through the divisions and his preference for exposing academy graduates to “men’s football”.

Rhys Norrington-Davies, Regan Slater and Tyler Smith are among those placed with EFL clubs this term while goalkeeper Jake Eastwood has been recalled from a loan spell at Scunthorpe to provide cover for Dean Henderson against David Moyes’ side. Both Simon Moore (groin) and Michael Verrips (concussion) are likely to miss the fixture.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“Michael will miss out, through the protocol of head injuries,” Wilder said. “Simon is back on the grass, we’ve recalled Jake Eastwood so we’ve got a decision to make.

“No problem, I would put Jake in, It’s part and parcel of the game. If that’s the case, then Jake will got in.”

United, who are eighth in the table, are expected to send Eastwood out on loan again when Verrips’ is passed fit by doctors.