Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has described home-grown talent as being “central” to his plans for the League One club, writes James Shield.
Terry Kennedy and Louis Reed, two recent graduates of its Redtooth Academy, have commanded regular places in United’s first team squad since the former Nottingham Forest centre-forward’s appointment 18 months ago with the latter recently being awarded an England under-18 cap.
Clough, who used his programme notes ahead of Tuesday’s game against Doncaster Rovers to warn long-term success must be built on solid foundations, said: “I think any club, if it’s in good health, has a regular line of players coming through the ranks. Because of the challenges the game is facing now, especially outside the highest levels of the top-flight, it’s becoming even more important as time moves on.
“It’s not an exact science and there are going to be times when, perhaps, there isn’t always going to be somebody waiting in the wings to step in at a moment’s notice. But we, as a staff, put a great deal of importance on academy football. It should be central to what we are trying to do.”
If, as expected, Kennedy recovers from the groin injury which forced him to miss the victory over Rovers, then United are likely to select both in the 22 man party which travels to Oldham Athletic tomorrow. The defender emerged as a pivotal figure in the win at Barnsley three days earlier which saw Clough’s team consolidate its grip on fifth place.
Clough, a regular attendee at United’s under-18 and under-21 fixtures, also selected seven academy players in the 18 man party which beat neighbours Rotherham at Bramall Lane last term.
“We don’t promote anyone because we fell like it,” he said. “Everyone who gets their chance, be it in a game or a training session with the first team lads, gets that on merit. And, providing you apply yourself properly and make the most of it, then you can learn from every opportunity you get.
“Take Louis, for example. He’ll have benefited from being away with the England team because it’s a different environment and a different way of doing things. With that experience, it all helps to improve his knowledge of the game and his profession.”