Sheffield United: Young sensation receives a huge boost ahead of Stoke City test

Iliman Ndiaye has been told he is now a bona fide member of Sheffield United’s first team squad after Slavisa Jokanovic challenged the idea that young players, particularly those right at the beginning of their senior careers, benefit from being handled with kid gloves.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 4:21 pm

Instead, having assessed the 21-year-old’s performances since making his full senior debut earlier this term, Jokanovic confirmed Ndiaye should expect to play a significant role in the club’s push for promotion from the Championship; dismissing the notion he should be treated differently to its more seasoned campaigners.

“Iliman is not 16, he is an adult, he is part of this competition and this group,” the United manager said. “That is why he is starting the majority of the games now. I do not understand why you hear people saying it is best to do ‘this’ or ‘that’ with him. That he should be handled in another way.

“No, he is a young man and I don’t think leaving him out (altogether) is best for him. That isn’t football and he is a football player.”

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Having celebrated making his first start for United by scoring two goals and creating another during last month’s win over Peterborough, Ndiaye enters Saturday’s game against Stoke City hoping to cement his place in Jokanovic’s starting choice eleven by producing another virtuoso performance. However, after being withdrawn from that meeting with Darren Ferguson’s side because of cramp, before suffering the same fate in his next game against Preston North End, there is a school of thought that the French midfielder’s development would be best served by spending a period out of the firing line before being gently eased back into the limelight. It is not one to which Jokanovic,as he attempts to haul United up the table, subscribes.

They have prepared for their meeting with fourth-placed City in 14th, nine points behind the visitors from Staffordshire.

“He, Iliman, has made an acceptable start,” the Serb said. “Now we expect improvements from him, the same as we do everyone. That is what must happen, and what we must see, from everyone if we are to achieve our targets.”

Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Iliman Ndiaye is set to face Stoke City this weekend: Simon Bellis / Sportimage