Sheffield United: Daniel Jebbison on the Jimmy Floyd effect and why he's now a totally different player
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Much has changed for Jebbison, including his demeanour and appearance, over the course of the past 14 months. A little over one year ago, he became the youngest ever player to score on their full Premier League debut during Sheffield United’s win over Everton at Goodison Park. Now, as Paul Heckingbottom’s side stand on the precipice of a new season which begins at Watford on Monday, the teenage centre-forward could find himself tasked with the responsibility of helping them return to the top-flight. Jebbison, who has matured both emotionally and physically since bursting onto the scene in Liverpool, no longer views himself as the callow kid on the Bramall Lane block.
Heckingbottom, who handed Jebbison his first break as a professional during a brief spell as United’s caretaker manager, has been an important influence on a career which saw the Canadian-born striker become a European champion with England during this summer’s UEFA under-19 tournament. Placed in permanent charge midway through last term, the club’s former lead development coach is considering handing Jebbison another opportunity when his team mates travel south next week as captain Billy Sharp and Oli McBurnie continue their recoveries from injury.
But as Jebbison reflects on his loan move to Burton Albion at the beginning of the previous campaign, it becomes apparent that Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Heckingbottom’s counterpart at the Pirelli Stadium, has been a big mentor too. One of the deadliest finishers of his generation, part of the ex-Holland, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid marksman will have enjoyed watching Jebbison repay his advice by scoring twice when United recently visited Staffordshire for their penultimate warm-up fixture ahead of the meeting with Rob Edwards’ side. Jebbison, who was recalled by United during the January transfer window, hopes those two efforts have put him in contention for a prominent role at Vicarage Road.
“It was great to have Jimmy helping me and all I can say is ‘thanks’ because, seriously, if you can’t learn from someone like him then who can you learn from. He’s a legend, a proper legend, and I can’t think of anyone in my position who doesn’t watch what he did or look up to him. We all want to be like Jimmy was don’t we.
“The great thing was, during my time there, he taught me how he scored all of his goals. He passed on so many great tips and little bits of information that will be vitallooking ahead.
“One of the things I really loved was the finesse shot he always used to do in training. Amazing and totally unstoppable. Honestly, I can’t praise Jimmy enough.”
As well as being an invaluable educational experience, Jebbison’s time at Albion proved to be a voyage of personal discovery too.
“Before going to Burton, I was still in my shell a bit. But playing regularly for them and working with Jimmy, it made me understand what type of footballer I am. I discovered that I had a nasty side that I didn't really know was in me and that’s really helped me come on.
“That, together with the help from Jimmy, was probably the biggest thing I took away from Burton. I had to get used to the nasty side of the game. There’s loads of improvement still to come from me but I’ll get there, definitely.”
Jebbison scored nine times in 23 appearances for Albion. The knowledge he gleaned there proved invaluable when, after pledging his allegiance to the Young Lions, England’s Ian Foster named him in the squad which travelled to Slovakia and, after progressing through the group stages, beat Israel in the final earlier this month.
“It was incredible,” says Jebbison, who netted during a 4-0 rout of Serbia in the earlier rounds. “We didn’t get out and about much and, to be honest, I don’t even know where we were staying. It was up in the mountains somewhere. UEFA give you the hotel. Ping pong, pool, bed and then a game. That was it. Everything was focused on football.”
Given everything that has happened to him, it is easy to forget that Jebbison is still a couple of weeks shy of his 19th birthday. Until, that is, he reveals his friendship with fellow United forward and 18-year-old Will Osula.
“I haven’t passed my driving test yet, because I’m struggling to get the practical done. Covid-19 messed everything up, so he’s giving me lifts everywhere. Will’s my buddy so, when I pass, I’ll take him out for lunch or something. And I definitely will pass.”
Jebbison is equally certain when it comes to his objectives for the upcoming campaign. Highlighting the new weapons in his armoury - “We’ve been working a lot on my touch, simplifying things and getting runs in behind, because if I get there, I’ll definitely ‘do’ you” - the Randox Health Academy graduate makes no secret of the fact United are targeting promotion as they prepare for their return to competitive action.
“It’s a new season and I want to get up,” he says. “I want to be a Premier League player, the same as everyone else.”