Derek Geary, Sheffield United’s under-18 coach, has insisted his players must perfect the ugly side of the game if they want to enjoy successful careers in football.
Geary, the former United defender, made the claim ahead of tonight’s FA Youth Cup tie against Preston North End at Deepdale (Kick-off 7pm).
Remembering Chelsea’s visit to Bramall Lane for a Premier League fixture in 2006, he said: “We were 1-0 up and you’ve got John Terry telling Frank Lampard ‘Just turn them for 10 or 15 minutes.’ That’s what football is all about.
“Often, when you are underdogs, it’s easier. When you are favourites, it’s sometimes harder to play like favourites. That’s why the top players are where they are, why they get the money they get, because week in and week out, they handle that.”
United advanced to the third round stage of the competition after beating FC Halifax Town 5-1 earlier this month.
The match, attended by manager Chris Wilder, saw Regan Slater, Jordan Hallam and Joe Cummings all named in Geary’s squad a week after making their senior debuts during a Checkatrade Trophy tie at Grimsby Town.
Hallam and Slater, who wrote his name on the scoresheet as Wilder’s team won 4-2, both started the Northern Group H tie.
“After the Grimsby game, I was straight on Hallam and Slater,” Geary admitted. “We made sure they came straight back down to earth. Listen, some people might have thought that was a Micky Mouse cup. But you never forget your debuts and, for them, that will have been the biggest game in the world. They won’t have slept a wink.”
“Sometimes, you see young lads come through and it goes to their heads,” Geary added. “It affects their game. “But they are good lads. Hopefully it’s given them a taste of it. Now they’ve had that taste, they should want more. Every pub in the country will have someone sat in it with talent. What helps you make it is that desire to keep pushing on. To push yourself to do more.”
Geary, who made over 100 appearances for United after arriving from Stockport County in October 2004, was impressed by United’s attitude during their second round match at The Shay.
“Going there was a bit of a banana skin,” he said. “We were mindful about how we had to start the game, not to give them any encouragement at all. There are things we can work on but, to be fair, it was a professional performance.
“We’ve been doing well in the league, so lots of teams are dropping off against us. Because of that, we’ve worked on moving the ball a lot rather than pressing, going long, stuff like that. We are trying to develop as a team but also develop individuals.”
“I’d rather have nights like that because I want the lads prepared for league and Championship football,” he added. “Not candyfloss football if you like. I’d imagine Preston will be quite different. They’re not in our league but we’ll do our homework on them and show them the same respect we do all our opponents.”