Sheffield United send Premier League message to Bramall Lane's next generation

Some of Sheffield United’s most talented youngsters, including Denmark youth international Will Osula, will be granted opportunities to impress during the club’s pre-season preparations as Paul Heckingbottom attempts to build a squad capable of establishing itself at Premier League level.
Oliver Arblaster and Jili Buyabu both enjoyed first team opportunities as Sheffield United won promotion: Paul Thomas /SportimageOliver Arblaster and Jili Buyabu both enjoyed first team opportunities as Sheffield United won promotion: Paul Thomas /Sportimage
Oliver Arblaster and Jili Buyabu both enjoyed first team opportunities as Sheffield United won promotion: Paul Thomas /Sportimage

Despite chasing and subsequently winning automatic promotion from the Championship, Heckingbottom has proven himself willing to award debuts to graduates from Bramall Lane’s youth programme since taking charge 18 months ago, with the likes of Oliver Arblaster, Jordan Amissah, Sai Sachdev and Andre Brooks among those making senior appearances alongside Osula last term.

Iliman Ndiaye and Daniel Jebbison also made their professional breakthroughs under Heckingbottom’s tutelage, with the 45-year-old spending a brief period in caretaker charge towards the end of United’s last stay in the top-flight before being appointed on a permanent basis.

Sheffield United's Will Osula has impressed of late: Simon Bellis / SportimageSheffield United's Will Osula has impressed of late: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Sheffield United's Will Osula has impressed of late: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sources behind the scenes last night told The Star that trend is set to continue next term, although Heckingbottom and his coaching staff are aware they must also be active in the transfer market to enhance United’s survival prospects.

“If anyone shows they are worth it, that they’re ready, then we’ve demonstrated already that we’ll give them a chance,” said Heckingbottom. “You can’t just bring lads in for the sake of it, because that’s what you do - bring people through. They’ve got to prove, day in and day out, that they are better than whoever is ahead of them in the team. If they do that, then as everyone can see then we’ll have no worries whatsoever about getting them in.”

Osula has been in free-scoring form for United’s development squad of late, having made his last outing under Heckingbottom when Birmingham City were beaten 2-1 on the final day of the regular campaign. Fellow centre-forward Jebbison is set to be granted an early opportunity to stake his claim for a prominent role next term when he travels with England to the under-20 World Cup in Argentina later this month. Another up-and-coming professional, Jili Buyabu, made his bow at St Andrews.

Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye made his professional debut under Paul Heckingbottom: Paul Thomas / SportimageSheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye made his professional debut under Paul Heckingbottom: Paul Thomas / Sportimage
Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye made his professional debut under Paul Heckingbottom: Paul Thomas / Sportimage

“We’ve always made sure there was a pathway through,” Heckingbottom continued. “So long as it’s there, and we’ll give them every opportunity and every bit of help they need to do it, then it’s up to the lads themselves to make the most of that.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After travelling to Las Vegas to celebrate their return to the PL following two seasons away, United’s players are scheduled to spend time with their friends and families before reporting back for duty at the Randox Health Academy training complex. They will then travel to Portugal for a warm-weather camp ahead of a series of soon-to-be-announced friendlies in England.

With Heckingbottom predicting that progress in this summer’s transfer market will be slow, because of the late end to the PL campaign, United’s stay at the Portuguese Football Federation’s high performance centre near Lisbon could prove a pivotal moment in the careers of the likes of Osula, Arblaster and Sachdev, who had been set for even greater opportunities midway last term before his progress was hampered by an untimely injury.