Sheffield United: Why promising defender has been handed a trial at Bramall Lane

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, has spoken about the club’s decision to award Dundee defender Luke Graham a trial at Bramall Lane.

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The teenage centre-half was invited to train with United’s development squad after capturing the imagination of their scouts earlier this season.

According to Heckingbottom, Graham’s presence illustrates the plan both he and academy chief Derek Geary have decided to try and circumnavigate some of the problems caused by the fact United’s youth programme does not yet enjoy category one status - despite being responsible for developing internationals England internationals Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aaron Ramsdale.

“We are constantly looking,” Heckingbottom said. “You would not believe the difference between cat one and cat two. We won’t get the players who want the most money. But we will get the ones who want the pathway through and the opportunities.”

Graham, aged 18, only began playing full-time football a year ago. Despite that, he has already established an impressive reputation both at Dens Park and also Lochee United, where he was placed on loan in order to accelerate his progress.

“It will be a great experience for him, no matter how it goes,” Scott Robertson, Dundee’s under-18’s coach, said. “He’s come on physically, mentally, tactically - everything we want to see.”

Although Robertson stressed he does not want to see Graham leave Tayside, it is probably no coincidence that the former Scotland international was happy to provide a regional newspaper north of the border with a lengthy interview on the youngster’s situation.

Luke Graham has arrived from Dens Park to undergo a trial at Sheffield United: Alan Harvey / SNS Group

“Luke has been out on loan…and that’s been a real challenge for him,” Robertson continued, speaking to The Courier. “There’s a bit of brutality there, and a real physical challenge we wanted him to experience.”

Although Heckingbottom has been provided with a dossier on how Graham performed, a final decision on whether or not to make him an offer will be made by Geary and Aidy Bothroyd; United’s academy coaching consultant.

“It shouldn’t be my job to decide if an 18 year old gets a professional contract,” Heckingbottom said. “They might not be good enough now, but they might be ready for the second or the third manager down the line.”

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Andrew Yates / Sportimage