THE sight of over 6,000 supporters crammed into Old Trafford’s East Stand proved Sheffield United’s youngsters have captured the imagination of the terraces at Bramall Lane.
And, reflecting on the club’s efforts during Monday evening’s FA Youth Cup Final second leg, John Pemberton insisted whoever takes charge of the first team next season must also embrace the passing principles which proved so successful en route to the Theatre of Dreams.
“I don’t know who will get the job,” Pemberton, United’s academy director, said. “But, in my opinion, they’ve got to be ready to try and play the same way as we do. Otherwise it’s going to be very difficult for these lads to come through and establish themselves at that level.
“Personally, I think we’ve got to change. Football is changing.
“We’ve tried to go about our business the right way and we’ve got some very talented and capable players coming through the ranks. There’s no point in us simply asking them to overpower people.
“Yes, we might get some success by doing that at this level, but what happens when all of the others elsewhere, who have been brought up the right way, get big and strong too? You’re left with nothing.
“Whoever comes in will go about things in the manner they see fit and that’s quite right. It’s their prerogative.
“But, if you ask me, I think this is the best route to take.”
Pemberton’s protegees might have failed in their bid to prevent Manchester United from reclaiming the famous trophy – Paul McGuinness’ expensively assembled squad prevailing 4-1 on home soil following last week’s 2-2 draw in South Yorkshire – but their contribution to an absorbing contest has made an indelible impression on those charged with identifying Micky Adams’ successor. Indeed, plc chairman Kevin McCabe revealed that a commitment to home-grown talent was a pre-requisite for consideration after dispensing with the 49-year-old’s services soon after United’s relegation to League One.
Finances dictate that the likes of Jordan Slew, Terry Kennedy and Harry Maguire will all enjoy prominent roles next term after making their senior debuts towards the end of Adams’ reign. But, McCabe insisted, United must also approach the task of securing promotion with the same inventiveness and freedom of expression which Pemberton and his fellow coaches encourage at Shirecliffe.
Danny Wilson and Mark Robins, who are both understood to have impressed during interview, are equipped to make good on such a commitment while Peter Reid is believed to covet the job despite refusing to comment on his situation at Plymouth Argyle.
Pemberton, speaking before United locked horns with the 10 time champions, also refused to dismiss the possibility of making the step-up at some stage in the future. “If someone offered you a position then of course you’d have to look at the pro’s and cons.”
Although McCabe’s insistence that Adams’ replacement must be “experienced” suggests he is not actively under consideration, the former Nottingham Forest caretaker has cut an increasingly capable and accomplished figure in recent weeks. Obviously a shrewd coach and capable tactician, he is equally adept at charming the media.
“If you look at all the teams who are achieving things now, they’ve all got one thing in common,” Pemberton said. “They play football which tells me that’s the right way.”