Sheffield United: Kids backed to shine

Century target: Harry Maguire has already amassed more than 90 first-team games since his United debut
Century target: Harry Maguire has already amassed more than 90 first-team games since his United debut
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CHRIS Morgan, the former Sheffield United centre-half, believes Harry Maguire and George Long are reaping the benefit of their decision to prioritise a footballing education over financial gain.

The 19-year-old’s have emerged as key members of Danny Wilson’s squad since graduating from United’s youth academy at Shirecliffe.

Although Wilson recently indicated there have been no concrete offers for either player during the transfer window, Bramall Lane’s hierarchy, acting with the express permission of the individuals concerned, has successfully rebutted discreet overtures from Championship and Premier League clubs within the past 12 months.

Morgan, who made 274 starts for United before joining Wilson’s coaching staff, said: “They great thing for Harry and George is that they are actually playing and gaining invaluable experience at a really young age.

“You see so many lads leave clubs for whatever reason and then get lost in a top-flight team. That doesn’t make them bad players but they often just get swallowed-up.

“Take Harry for example,” Morgan added. “He’s still in his teens, he’s got an England under-21 cap and he’s going to be closing in on 100 appearances for us soon.

“No matter how good you are, you have to learn your trade and that’s what he and George are definitely doing.”

United, whose League One fixture at Bury last night was postponed because of a frozen pitch, return to action when they visit Reading in the FA Cup this weekend.

Maguire and Long are both expected to start the fourth round tie which pits Wilson’s team against opponents who have won three of their previous four top-flight outings.

Morgan, now in charge of United’s development team, has predicted more home-grown products could soon join England under-21 defender Maguire and goalkeeper Long in Wilson’s plans.

Diego De Girolamo, an Italy youth cap, Callum McFadzean, Elliott Whitehouse and Terry Kennedy are among those to have featured on United’s roster since August.

“We try and play in exactly the same way as the first team to make the transition as smooth as possible,” Morgan said. “The same approach and preparation.”

*Did you Know? Jordan Slew, the former Sheffield United striker, has made less than 20 senior appearances, many on loan, since leaving Bramall Lane for Blackburn Rovers last season