Paul Heckingbottom warns Sheffield United about their recruitment this summer

Sheffield United have been warned not to stifle the development of Bramall Lane’s most gifted young players when they begin the process of reshaping their squad this summer.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 5:30 pm

Despite insisting there will be no fire sale of talent after being relegated from the Premier League, United are expected to be active in the transfer market with some of their leading performers likely to be poached by top-flight clubs.

Recognising the need to move quickly when the window reopens, and having yet to appoint Chris Wilder’s permanent replacement, senior figures at United have already begun the process of devising a recruitment strategy designed to give the 53-year-old’s successor the best possible opportunity of winning promotion at the first attempt.

Interim manager Paul Heckingbottom has been invited to take part in those discussions and has made it clear the progress of Steelphalt Academy graduates such as Zak Brunt, Kyron Gordon and Antwoine Hackford should be uppermost in the architects’ minds.

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Zak Brunt of Sheffield Utd celebrates scoring the second goal during the Professional Development League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield. Picture date: 22nd March 2021. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“We’ve got to improve the first team, yes,” Heckingbottom said. “But don’t recruit in front of players like them. Don’t put unnecessary obstacles in their way.

“There’s no point, as far as I can see, in bringing in someone who blocks their potential route through, although if it;s someone to go straight in then obviously that’s different.

“If a youngster gets past a first team player then great. If they end up keeping them out of the team on a long term basis, even better. You can make money on that.

“But what you don’t want to be doing is something that limits their growth, even if they’re doing well.”

Wolverhampton, England, 17th April 2021. Paul Heckingbottom temporary manager of Sheffield Utd looks on dejected at the final whistle during the Premier League match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. Picture credit should read: Darren Staples/ Sportimage

Heckingbottom, who enters this weekend’s match at Tottenham Hotspur searching for his second win in interim charge following Saturday’s victory over Brighton and Hove Albion, coached United’s under-23 team before stepping into the void created by Wilder’s departure last month.

Admitting he sought assurances he could return to that role at the end of the present campaign, Heckingbottom said: “Jack (Lester, United’ academy director) has really tried to shake up the academy and you’re seeing the fruits of that now with what’s happening.”