Sheffield United: Exciting teenager told a Championship start is within his grasp

Sheffield United teenager Oliver Arblaster has been told a starting role is within his grasp after capturing the imagination of manager Paul Heckingbottom.
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The 18-year-old impressed coaching staff with his performance during last weekend’s friendly against Scunthorpe, which saw United’s preparations for next month’s Championship opener at Watford reach the halfway stage.

Despite the fierce competition for places within Heckingbottom’s midfield - Tommy Doyle, on loan from Manchester City, has yet to feature since arriving from the Premier League champions - Arblaster could force his way into United’s first choice eleven if he continues to shine.

Oliver Arblaster has captured the imagination of Sheffield United's coaching staff: Simon Bellis / SportimageOliver Arblaster has captured the imagination of Sheffield United's coaching staff: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Oliver Arblaster has captured the imagination of Sheffield United's coaching staff: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
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Asked if he would consider placing the youngster with another EFL team to accelerate his development, Heckingbottom replied: “Right now, I would look at keeping him. I enjoy working with him. It’s a good environment for him to be in, being around these players.

“If he keeps playing well enough then he might well get in the team, because that’s the way it is and that’s how we want to operate.”

“We’ll see,” Heckingbottom added. “I thought Oliver showed us some really good moments.”

Rhian Brewster scored one of Sheffield United's two goals at ScunthorpeRhian Brewster scored one of Sheffield United's two goals at Scunthorpe
Rhian Brewster scored one of Sheffield United's two goals at Scunthorpe

Usually reluctant to shower up-and-coming professionals with praise, Heckingbottom’s decision to voluntarily comment on Arblaster’s performance at Glanford Park spoke volumes about both his quality and attitude.

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Born in Sheffield and capped by England at youth level, Arblaster made two appearances in United’s senior squad last term but failed to make his debut against either Coventry City or Blackpool. But, barring a dramatic downturn in form, he looks set to be handed a more prominent role during the forthcoming campaign.

Oliver Arblaster warms up ahead of last season's Championship match at Blackpool: Andrew Yates / SportimageOliver Arblaster warms up ahead of last season's Championship match at Blackpool: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Oliver Arblaster warms up ahead of last season's Championship match at Blackpool: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

Heckingbottom, previously United’s development coach before succeeding Slavisa Jokanovic in November, conceded he was disappointed with aspects of his team’s first-half display at Glanford Park. Trailing 3-0 at the interval, the visitors hit back through Rhian Brewster and Iliman Ndiaye after the interval but were unable to find an equaliser.

Insisting there were mitigating circumstances behind the result, Heckingbottom said: “George Broadbent, another young lad, is playing out of position and doing a job for us at wing-back.

“We were looking at getting some boys 75 minutes and others 15, with the reverse happening next time out.”

United return to action when they face Mansfield Town tomorrow night.