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Sheffield United: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, don’t drown your sorrows. Try again’

Former Sheffield United youngster Lee Gregory in action for Millwall
Former Sheffield United youngster Lee Gregory in action for Millwall

If things had turned out differently, Lee Gregory might well have been wearing the red and white stripes of Sheffield United yesterday, not the blue of Millwall.

But, in a vindication of the Steelphalt Academy's 'Futures' programme, Chris Wilder has outlined plans to ensure players such as the 30-year-old, who failed to make the grade at Bramall Lane, are given more opportunities to prove their worth.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

Reflecting on Gregory's career path, which saw him hone his skills with Halifax Town after leaving United as a youngster, Wilder said: "That's where timing is everything. That and managers' opinions and coaching staff's opinions. If somebody doesn't rate you or whatever, it comes down to the character of the player.

"It's the mark of players who come back after disappointment. Do they sit in the pub watching the results come up on a Saturday afternoon and think 'that could have been me?' Or do they do something about it."

Had the 'Futures' scheme existed when Gregory was in the system, it is possible he could have eventually established himself at United. Recognising footballers develop at different rates, the programme aims to give many of those who are initially cut loose a second chance.

Reflecting upon David Brooks' rise to prominence - the AFC Bournemouth forward left United in a £12m deal earlier this summer - the United manager added: "Attitude is all important. If you look at David, he left Manchester City and then joined our youth system. He got his head down, worked hard and kept on going.

"Often, that attitude is what separates those who make it from those who could have done but don't."