Sheffield United: Youngster labelled 'The Ultimate Team Player' coming through the system

For someone with an aversion to talking up young footballers in case they start to get ahead of themselves, it was a pretty bold statement.
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“He’s probably the ultimate team player if you like,” Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom responded, explaining why Harrison Neal has suddenly become a big noise at Southend. “Whatever side he’s on when you have a training ground game, that’s side tends to win. It isn’t a coincidence. It’s because of what he does for the group.”

Neal, who captained United’s under-23’s to their league title last season, impressed for Kettering at the beginning of the campaign before heading to Roots Hall. Kacper Lopata, his team mate at Bramall Lane, is also scheduled to remain with Kevin Maher’s side until the end of the National League campaign.

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“Harrison and Kacper, they’ve been doing fantastic down there,” Heckingbottom continued. “Kacper was already down there and Zak (Brunt), who is now with Notts County, also spent some time with them as well.

“They (Southend) know they’ve got two really good young players there. They’ve got a lot of developing to do, as you would expect. But it’s great to see them performing and playing because it’s one of those situations that everyone benefits from.”

Although neither Neal, a midfielder, and Poland under-20 defender Lopata are expected to take any part in United’s push for promotion from the Championship, Heckingbottom is likely to run the rule over both when his squad begins preparing for the 2022/23 season.

“Harrison missed a few games recently because of a suspension,” said Heckingbottom. “He got his 10th booking and that interrupted his progress for a bit.”