Sheffield United's youngsters told they can play themselves into Premier League contention - starting today against Wednesday

Sheffield United's young U23 side have Steel City derby bragging rights to play for this afternoon when they face city rivals Wednesday - but in the bigger picture, they have been told that they can earn themselves some Premier League exposure between now and the end of the season.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 11:46 am

Paul Heckingbottom, formerly their U23s boss, has moved up to the senior team after Chris Wilder's recent departure and has already given one member of the group, Iliman Ndiaye, a Premier League debut. Others, like Zak Brunt and Frankie Maguire, may follow in the coming weeks after featuring on the first-team bench in recent weeks.

Darren Currie, the nephew of Blades legend Tony, has been brought in along with Graham Coughlan to take United's U23s for the rest of the season. They got off to a good start on Monday, with a 4-0 win over QPR in their first game in charge, and the table-topping young Blades will hope to continue their good recent form with victory at Middlewood Road this afternoon (2pm).

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“Circumstances change very quickly in football,” Currie said in an interview with The Athletic.

“Opportunity presents itself. For them, they should be looking at what has happened and thinking: ‘Our under-23s gaffer is now in charge of the first team — if I produce, I might get a chance’.

“I am not up to speed as to whether Chrissy used the 23s or not. I’ve only just arrived and a lot has been going on, so I can’t comment on that but with Paul up there, if these lads can produce more performances like what we have just seen against QPR, then they may well find themselves around the first team.

Zak Brunt hopes to be the next young player to make his senior debut for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“Paul knows what they are capable of. He came in the changing room after the (QPR) game and said ‘Well done’ to everyone. If the opportunity comes — and I am pretty sure it will — then just be ready to take it.

"Next year, if it does end up being in the Championship, some of these boys might be a little bit more involved in the team than they realise at the minute.”