Sheffield United: Skipper's pledge to one of his most promising young team mates

He can picture it now; the two of them embracing following a Sheffield United goal.

Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 9:30 am

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The chances are, providing Billy Sharp steers clear of injury and Oliver Arblaster makes his debut over the coming weeks, the photograph United’s captain is planning will get taken sooner rather than later.

After all, despite turning 36 at the beginning of last month, Sharp remains the best finisher at the club’s disposal by some considerable margin.

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“There was a photo I saw not so long back,” he said ahead of tomorrow’s visit to Blackpool, “Of me high-fiving Oli after a game. He was a ball boy and now he’s in the squad. Hopefully he can get on the pitch soon and then we can get one of us celebrating goals together.”

Arblaster, aged 17, is the latest member of United’s development programme to join Paul Heckingbottom’s squad as the 44-year-old, whose options have been savaged by fitness issues, attempts to steer his side into the play-offs despite Bramall Lane’s injury crisis. An unused substitute at Coventry City last weekend, the teenage midfielder is expected to travel with the team to Lancashire where United will attempt to strengthen their grip on a play-off position. Despite losing 4-1 in the Midlands, Heckingbottom’s men have prepared for the contest ranked sixth in the table with 10 matches remaining.

Although the manager admits it is far from ideal that so many youngsters are featuring on United’s bench at such a critical stage of the campaign, he spoke in glowing terms about Arblaster’s potential ahead of the visit to Bloomfield Road; describing the England youth international as a boy with a “man’s brain”.

With Heckingbottom initially joining United as their under-23’s coach before replacing Slavisa Jokanovic in November, Sharp, who has scored 15 times this term, said: “The manager now, he knows a lot of these lads. They must be champing at the bit to get involved and I’m sure they’ll get their chances.”

Oliver Arblaster is expected to travel to Blackpool with Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“It’s important we bounce back from what happened last time out,” he added. “We’ve spoken about it and we know what’s at stake. We don’t want there to be any hangovers from that.”

Billy Sharp is Sheffield United's leading goalscorer this season: Isaac Parkin / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has worked with most of the club's brightest youngsters: Andrew Yates / Sportimage