Sheffield United's youngsters told by Paul Heckingbottom they can earn their Premier League spurs
Sheffield United’s young players have been challenged to demonstrate their are ready for senior action after Paul Heckingbottom, the Premier League club’s caretaker manager, confirmed he is ready to promote from within between now and the end of the season.
Heckingbottom coached Bramall Lane’s under23 team before being placed in temporary charge following Chris Wilder’s departure earlier this month, and has already demonstrated a willingness to award opportunities to youth team graduates.
Iliman Ndiaye made his top-flight debut towards the of United’s recent defeat by Leicester City, while Zak Brunt and Kyron Gordon joined the 21-year-old on the bench during last weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final at Chelsea.
Despite entering the international break 14 points adrift of safety with only nine matches remaining, Heckingbottom is refusing to admit defeat in a battle for survival United appear certain to lose.
However, speaking ahead of their forthcoming Yorkshire derby against Leeds, Heckingbottom insisted he is prepared to continue raiding the ranks of the Steelphalt Academy’s development programme to try and inspire an upturn in fortunes.
“My take on it is if they’re good enough then they’re ready,” Heckingbottom said. “If they’ve shown they are ready to take that step by performing well at the level below as it were, then that’s the time to do it.
“There’s some good young players here, I think we all know that. So if we think they’re ready and can make a difference, can improve on what we have been doing, then I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t happen.”
Although his room for manoeuvre has been limited by injuries to key members of United’s squad, Heckingbottom added: “Obviously that opens things up, but if you are involved then that means you have earned the right to be involved.
“Nobody who gets that chance will think they’ve made it. But we’ve told everyone that what happens during the week is going to guide our choices.
“That’s the way it’s got to be. I’m not going to be afraid to make a big decision or a big call if that’s what is required, because that’s how football works.”