SHEFFIELD United’s youngsters will not be intimidated by the prospect of appearing at Wembley, goalkeeper Steve Simonsen has insisted.
Teenager Harry Maguire and Matthew Lowton, aged 22, are expected to be handed leading roles when Danny Wilson’s side go head to head with Huddersfield Town in tomorrow’s League One play-off final.
With Jordan Rhodes, the division’s leading goalscorer, likely to spearhead the West Yorkshire club’s attack, United’s defenders know one slip could decide the outcome of what is expected to be an nervewracking contest.
But Simonsen said: “Harry and Matty have done superbly well this season.
“They’re in the team on their own merits, not because they’ve come through the ranks, and they’ve done themselves proud.
“The way they’ve acquitted themselves already has shown they have the mindset to handle the big occasion.”
United’s back four appeared to be in disarray en route to relegation last season.
But it’s performances this term have been a driving force behind their march to within 90 minutes of a potential return to the Championship.
Indeed, Wilson cited United’s ability to keep two clean sheets during the semi-final victory over Stevenage as one of the most “pleasing” aspects of a display which proved his charges possess graft as well as guile.
The past 10 meetings between United and Town have produced an average of 2.5 goals per game. But, with Rhodes searching for his 41st effort of the season, there is a school of thought that Wilson’s men would prefer not to be drawn into a footballing slugfest.
Simonsen, speaking soon after Chris Porter’s late strike had put Gary Smith’s team to the sword, said: “Last year there was a lot of chopping and changing at the back but this year we’ve been able to keep things pretty much settled.
“There’s no doubt that’s been a massive help because the lines of communication improve.
“And that’s a vital part of this job.
“But players have still got to perform well and that’s what the lads in front of me have done.”
Maguire’s rise to prominence has been one of the stories of what has already been a memorable campaign at Bramall Lane.
He was handed his opportunity to shine by Wilson’s predecessor, Micky Adams, and the 19-year-old’s partnership with fellow centre-half Neill Collins could hold the key to a United victory in the capital should Rhodes and colleague Lee Novak hit form.
“Harry, like I say, has been brilliant,” Simonsen said. “But I’m sure he’ll be the first to tell everyone how important Neill has been to him too.
“They work well together.”