Sheffield United boss’s Chris Francis verdict after trialist impresses v Estoril

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Young trialist impressed in Sheffield United’s pre-season draw at Estoril on Wednesday evening

Sheffield United are planning further discussions with, and about, trialist Chris Francis before deciding whether or not to offer the former Bournemouth man a deal. The 20-year-old made his second appearance in Blades colours in Wednesday evening’s friendly at Estoril and impressed with his composure on the ball.

Francis progressed through Swindon’s academy from the age of six until being released at 18 and worked his way back up with local side North Leigh before going on trial with Charlton this summer. United also invited him to join their pre-season camp and after 45 minutes in Saturday’s win at Chesterfield, he had another half in a Blades shirt in the goalless draw at Estádio António Coimbra da Mota.

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“We’ll see,” said Heckingbottom after that game when pressed on Francis’ future. “We’ll have a good chat with him and amongst the staff. He's certainly fit in well, he's got a few more days on Friday and Saturday and then we’ll have a chat and discussion.

The Star’s coverage of Sheffield United’s pre-season trip to Portugal is in association with Vertical Editions, a Sheffield-based company producing fine sporting books. Check out their range of Blades titles, including the new book Legends at the Lane, at

“He's had offers elsewhere but we got him in and had a good look at him. He's young and left-footed defenders are tough to come by so we wanted to look at him.”

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Heckingbottom and his recruitment staff are certainly not too proud to scour the free agent or local market for potential gems, highlighting Iliman Ndiaye’s recruitment from non-league Boreham Wood as the obvious example of what can be achieved. Asked if Francis would be a first-team or development signing, Heckingbottom replied coyly: “It depends how well he does.”

United are in the market for left-sided central defensive reinforcements, with Abdoulaye Ndiaye of Lyon a player under consideration. After the summer departures of Jack O’Connell and Ciaran Clark, Jack Robinson is the only senior left centre-half at Heckingbottom’s disposal, with attention now turning to that particular area for United’s recruitment staff.

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