Why Ethan Ampadu cut such an impressive figure after joining Sheffield United from Chelsea
The first thing you noticed was his maturity.
Then, as the conversation continued and turned towards Sheffield United, it was Ethan Ampadu’s sense of purpose - tempered by a self awareness often lacking in teenage footballers - which really shone through.
Although they are very different people and play different positions, journalists invited to discover the Wales international’s motivations for joining Chris Wilder’s side on loan from Chelsea were reminded of another youngster who identified Bramall Lane as the ideal place to launch his Premier League career as Ampadu outlined how - and why - the deal came about during a 30 minute long Zoom call. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who earlier this summer returned to Manchester United following two hugely successful seasons in South Yorkshire, possessed the same unwavering conviction in his own ability and, even more importantly, the same desire to learn too.
“Of course, you could see how well Dean did here,” Ampadu said, acknowledging he had charted Henderson’s progress during his time under Wilder. “It was definitely mentioned, because you can see how he developed and that gives you confidence because that’s what I want to do. But I don’t spend much time comparing people because everyone has got their own pathway."
Ampadu, who turns 20 on Monday before United’s Premier League opener against Wolverhampton Wanderers, arrives with arguably an even bigger reputation than the one Henderson carried across the Pennines. Capped 15 times by his country, the defender spent two years working with the first team squad at Stamford Bridge, making 12 senior appearances, before being dispatched to RB Leipzig.
With Brazil’s Thiago Silva joining his parent club from Paris St Germain last month, Frank Lampard, Wilder’s counterpart in west London, endorsed Ampadu’s decision to search out regular action when United made their approach.
“If I want to make myself an established Premier League player, then I have to learn and get stronger,” Ampadu said. Frank Lampard thought this was a really good option when we had the conversation,” Ampadu continued. “He expressed the importance of playing games, which I’ve not done a lot of other than for Wales, over the last few years. He told me he wants to see me get involved and I really can’t wait because, from my conversations with Chris Wilder here, he’s a really honest man. He tells you the truth and if you want to improve, you need to hear it."
Ampadu’s father Kwame, who represented Arsenal, Swansea and Exeter during his own professional career, is another source of advice. A former Republic of Ireland under-21 international, he was appointed assistant manager of AS Monaco during Thierry Henry’s reign in the principality before taking up the same position with MLS franchise Montreal Impact.
“The people around me help me stay grounded and dad is definitely a big influence,” Ampadu said. “He keeps me on my toes, but he tries not to get involved too much because he wants me to be independent, to learn for myself. But here’s there if I need him.”