Rising Sheffield United star 'turns down' loan move in order to fight for his place at Bramall Lane
Rhys Norrington-Davies rejected an offer to spend next season on loan at Beerschot, The Star understands, preferring to stay at Bramall Lane and fight for a place in Sheffield United’s starting eleven instead.
The centre-half, who is preparing to represent Wales at this summer’s European Championships, completed spells with Luton Town and Stoke City last season as former manager Chris Wilder looked to further his development.
The idea was that Norrington-Davies would then be recalled to South Yorkshire ahead of the 2021/22 campaign and be fully integrated into United’s first team squad, where fellow defender Jack O’Connell is still recovering from knee surgery.
However, with Wilder parting company with the club in March, sources within the game report that Norrington-Davies was then asked if he would rather agree a temporary transfer to the Olympisch Stadion where Will Still, the Belgian’s head coach, could offer him guaranteed first team football.
But the youngster declined that invitation, which is believed to have come from a member of the United board, informing his employers that he wants to work under Wilder’s successor Slavisa Jokanovic instead.
The fact Norrington-Davies was even approached in the first place underlines the growing ties between United and their sister club in Antwerp, who are also part of the United World project; a global network which also includes sides in India, France and Dubai. Although he is based in Switzerland, where the company is registered, it was significant that Abdullah Alghamdi, the UW chief executive, was present at the lunch meeting between United’s owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Jokanovic in Geneva last week which officially marked the Serb’s appointment.
Despite Norrington-Davies’ decision to remain in England, other Steelphalt Academy graduates are expected to be asked if they want to gain experience at Beerschot next term, following George Broadbent’s move there midway through last season.
Although injury curtailed the midfielder’s progress, academy director Jack Lester has insisted that experiencing senior football will stand him in good stead as he also looks to make an impression under Jokanovic.
Ismaila Coulibaly, whose move to United and then subsequent transfer to Beerschot is believed to have been a source of friction behind the scenes towards the end of Wilder’s reign, is now said to be attracting interest from AC Milan according to members of Prince Abdullah’s inner circle.
With O’Connell still seemingly some way short of fitness after undergoing a procedure in September and Kean Bryan yet to reveal if he is minded to accept United’s offer of a new contract, Norrington-Davies could emerge as an important figure in Jokanovic’s line-up. Members of United’s coaching staff earmarked him as a potential replacement for O’Connell before arranging for him to spend time on loan at Rochdale two seasons ago, and the switch to City was designed to expose Norrington-Davies to the demands of playing in a three man rearguard.
Jokanovic is set to officially take charge of United in July, when his contract with Qatari outfit Al-Gharafa expires.
The former Yugoslavia and Chelsea midfielder will be hoping to mastermind the third promotion from the Championship of his career, after United were relegated from the Premier League last month.