Sheffield United youngsters’ transfer plan as Harrison Neal catches Blades fans’ eye

Neal and Brooks catch eye in friendly defeat at Rotherham
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Sheffield United will balance their own requirements with a need to get their highly-rated young starlets experience of first-team football, after midfielder Harrison Neal impressed Blades supporters with his display in Tuesday night’s friendly defeat at Rotherham United.

The 22-year-old spent last season on loan at Barrow and caught the eye at the New York Stadium against the Championship side, alongside fellow youngster Andre Brooks. Neal played 90 minutes - the only outfield player to do so - while Brooks could have finished the game with a hat-trick of assists as his stock continued to grow.

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It would be a big ask for either player to make their mark in the Premier League next season but the challenge is certainly there for the pair - and any of their young teammates - to ask the question of manager Paul Heckingbottom. Barrow are known to be keen on bringing Neal back to Holker Street for the 2023/24 season but if he does leave Bramall Lane again, United may try to place him at a League One club to test him further.

“He’s been outstanding, but that’s Nealy,” said United’s assistant manager Stuart McCall, himself a former midfielder of some standing. “He does everything and he’s a great example to all of the young kids here. He’s trained really well, he’s a great kid, and he’s got the attitude to do well and go far in the game.

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“His all-round attitude is great. I think he only trained with us once last season and I thought: ‘Yeah, I like this kid a lot.’ He just goes about his business and he makes the most of everything he’s got. Hopefully there’s a good career ahead of him because he certainly has the right attitude and attributes. He certainly will have a career, at whatever level.”

United are working hard to bring in more reinforcements ahead of the new Premier League season, with midfield known to be one area of consideration. Injuries to Ollie Norwood and John Fleck earlier this week will only add to the sense of urgency, with potential loan deals for the likes of Neal and Brooks in the offing if they are pushed back down the pecking order by any new arrivals.

“We’re working hard behind the scenes to bring new faces to the football club,” McCall added. “A lot of work has been going on the last 10 days, and hopefully in the coming weeks, we’ll see some more new signings come into the building. We’ll then have a little look at who probably won’t be getting game-time, and see who can benefit from going out and playing men’s football rather than the under-21s.”

On Brooks, McCall said: “He was better [against Rotherham]. I thought he finished the back end of last season really well, training with us and being involved. He’s had a slow-ish start to pre-season, but he’s picked up recently. We saw a difference in training yesterday and I thought today we saw a lot of good things. He’s got to build on that and look to kick on. Again, he might be one that goes out on loan. We’ll see the make up of the squad in a couple of weeks’ time.”