How Sheffield United could beat Man City, Newcastle in transfer race for starlet after encouraging verdict

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Sheffield United credited with interest in Irish starlet but face reported competition from top-flight giants Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle amongst others

Sheffield United have been credited with an interest in a defensive starlet seen as one of the hottest properties in Irish football - but will face very stiff competition if they were to make their move. Sam Curtis, 17, is widely expected to move on from the League of Ireland after helping St Patrick's Athletic win the FAI Cup final on Sunday.

Curtis' fairytale rise to prominence saw him make his Republic of Ireland U21s debut earlier this year, with St Pat's assistant Jon Daly tipping him for a bright future after making the right wing-back spot his own at Richmond Park. “He’s fantastic and a great talent," Daly said. "He has an aggression in his game that you don’t really see in younger players. Quality-wise, he's been very good. He’s still learning the game and we’re hoping he keeps improving."

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Curtis helped his side to a third-placed finish in the LOI Premier Division but is now expected to move on. He turns 18 in December, which makes the process of a potential England move easier because of Brexit rules, with Daly admitting there had already been interest before the cup final victory last weekend.

Curtis certainly fits the Blades' transfer profile, with a renewed focus on up-and-coming young players who the Blades feel they can develop into either first-team players for themselves, or sell for profit to elsewhere. If United did follow up their reported interest they would pitch themselves as the ideal development club for Curtis, with an established pathway to first-team football and a manager, in Paul Heckingbottom, who has not hesitated to give young players a chance.

Curtis also plays in what could be a priority position for the Blades in the long-term, with first-team stars George Baldock and Jayden Bogle both out of contract at the end of the current season. Beneath them, Sai Sachdev and Femi Seriki have both had experience of first-team football for the Blades - giving them a potential advantage over more established, and wealthy, clubs if it came down to a battle for Curtis.

The youngster also has someone to lean on for advice about life at Bramall Lane if he needed it, in the shape of former winger Keith Treacy. The ex-Blade is doing some coaching work with St Pat's youngsters and was asked about Curtis on the latest episode of the Off the Ball podcast.

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"I think he’ll have another season at St Pat's," Treacy said. "I think his age will probably determine that. He could go to the continent, but Sam’s very very happy. I spoke to Sam - he speaks to me all the time about his delivery, how he crosses the ball, his one-v-one defending - and he’s a very very happy lad.

"I wouldn’t do him the disservice of speaking to him about what he wants to do after this, because I get a mic put in front of me quite regularly and I wouldn’t want to be able to disclose that. And to be quite honest with you I’m not sure where he’s what he’s going to do next. But the sky’s the limit for that boy and as long as he keeps his head down and keeps himself out of trouble, he can go and be anything he wants to be."

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Curtis' dedication to improving himself saw him recently seek out Treacy for some tips while practising his crossing alone after a training session. "As I’m walking across the pitch I thought I'd leave him to do his little bit of work, that I wouldn't bother him. But he collared me. 'Keith, Keith... if I'm running onto the ball, what’s the best position for me to put it on to, what technique should I be using?'

"I just gave him a little few tips, like: 'Don’t be trying to pick people out. Just hit good areas and if they don’t get there, you give out to the striker'. Little things like that. But the fact that he collared me and wanted tips from me, just made me feel six feet tall. And I’m only five foot eleven and a half, so it put nearly half an inch on me! Little things like that, when lads want to learn from you ... it’s brilliant."

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