Sheffield United: Youngster "in a bad place" after "wrong move" will benefit from facing Nottingham Forest
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Seriki, aged 18, made only the third senior appearance of his career when Steve Cooper’s side travelled to South Yorkshire last night; playing for more than an hour before being replaced by Ben Osborn.
With George Baldock succumbing to injury before the game and Jayden Bogle ruled out for the rest of the season, Seriki was the final specialist wing-back at Heckingbottom’s disposal ahead of the meeting with his team’s fellow play-off contenders.
“Femi, he was the next in line and it was a necessity,” Heckingbottom told The Star. “If he didn’t play, then it would have been you.
“It will be a massive learning experience for him, going out there in front of a big crowd in a big game with another big team.”
“I know Femi well,” continued Heckingbottom, who was United’s under-23’s coach before being appointed in November. “He was in a bad place at Beerschot and after coming back. It wasn’t a good move for him and it was the wrong move.
“But he’s back with us now and he’s been training with the group and then playing regularly in the development games.”
Despite being second best for long periods of the contest, United were on the verge of securing what would have been a huge win in the race for the top six when Billy Sharp headed them in front midway through the second period. But a 95th minute equaliser from Ryan Yates ensured Forest received some reward for what Cooper later described as a “brilliant” performance.
With Baldock a doubt for Tuesday’s meeting with Middlesbrough, which marks Chris Wilder’s first return to United since leaving his position 12 months ago, Heckingbottom could choose to select Ben Osborn on the left flank of his rearguard. The former Forest midfielder impressed after being summoned from the bench and his greater experience would allow another youngster, Kyron Gordon, to be recalled at centre-half.
Gordon made his league debut for United at Millwall towards the end of last month. But Heckingbottom will have been reluctant to select two untested talents for the visit of Forest.
“With George not ready, Jayden out and Ozzy not being quite ready to start either, we knew Femi was coming in,” Heckingbottom said. “He’ll take a lot from that. We’ve been doing a lot of work with him, building him back up and getting him fit.”
Seriki played less than 10 minutes of football after joining United’s sister club in Belgium at the beginning of the campaign. Slavisa Jokanovic, Heckingbottom’s predecessor, expressed frustration with how Beerschot were handling him before being sacked in November following the deterioration of his relationship with the board. One of Heckingbottom’s first acts after taking charge was summoning Seriki back to England. After a torrid season plagued by on and off the pitch issues, Greg Vanderidt’s men are spiralling towards relegation from the Jupiler Pro League.
“Femi will keep improving,” Heckingbottom said. “He’ll benefit from being involved.”