The ones that got away: what became of Billy Sharp's Sheffield United academy teammates?
For every Billy Sharp, there are thousands of talented youngsters who don’t make the grade. But what became of those who shared the journey with one of Sheffield United’s best-ever academy graduates?
Colin Marrison, Evan Horwood, Ian Ross, James Ashmore, Jonathan Forte and Ryan Gyaki all played in the same youth and reserve team as the evergreen Sharp, but never enjoyed the same level of success in professional football.
Sheffield United’s former academy manager Ron Reid believed Ross would have kicked on after making his first and ultimately only appearance for Sheffield United in a 2003 League Cup match, but the youngster suffered a series of misfortunes, including the sudden and tragic death of his dad.
“He did play football but it should have been for Sheffield United,” Reid said.
Gyaki was another one that got away, according to Reid.
After starring for Canada at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship – where he played against a young Radamel Falcao – won by a Lionel Messi-led Argentina, he suffered a catastrophic setback.
“He did really, really well at the Under-20 World Cup and was fighting for a first-team place and got a cruciate ligament injury which finished him,” said Reid.
"I remember it happening to the very day – horrendous – it was slightly damp conditions and he went in for a tackle, it was horrible. That finished him as a player.”
Forte will be familiar to United fans, having made nearly 50 appearances for the club before leaving for Scunthorpe United in 2007 as part of a swap deal that saw his friend and former teammate return to Bramall Lane.
The twice-capped Barbados international also returned to Sheffield United later in his career, in 2013, on loan from Southampton.
Since retiring in 2019 he has worked for the Billy Sharp Football Academy.
Marrison appeared in the Football League for Bury before drifting into non-league, while Ashmore represented Macclesfield Town and later the Blades’ former partner club Ferencváros.
Meanwhile, Horwood played for the likes of Carlisle, Hartlepool and Tranmere.
John Warnock, who also managed Sheffield United’s academy, namechecked another two Canadians – striker Troy Pennycooke-Morgan, who later played under Graham Potter at Östersund, and goalkeeper Tom Linley – as two players he would have liked to see given an opportunity in the first team.