'Massive for my development', 'Loved it there' - England Euro 2020 heroes Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Conor Coady remember their experiences of Sheffield United
When England return to Wembley for the final of the European Championships on Sunday evening, four former Sheffield United players will be hoping to join a current Blade in Aaron Ramsdale on Gareth Southgate’s 23-man teamsheet.
Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker have been instrumental in England’s march to the final, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Conor Coady have played lesser roles so far on the pitch.
But all four are bound by previous experiences of the Blades and Bramall Lane. Here, in their own words, are their memories of playing in red and white…
“When I broke in I always played alongside Neill Collins, who was massive for my development and told me when I was doing anything wrong.
I got an earful every now and then! But he was great. I grew up watching Chris Morgan for United and he ended up on the coaching team when I was breaking through. He had a big influence on my defensive game.
There were probably times I was playing and made a couple of mistakes, and some managers may have said: 'Right, get the young lad out.'
But to be fair to Danny Wilson, he played me in every game. I could make a mistake, play a short backpass and lose the game, and I'd play the next game where some other managers would have gone with the experience.
That was a massive part of my development and my game. I think I got in the team of the year three years on the spin in League One, so it was a great achievement for myself.”
"I try and get back as often as possible. It’s my hometown and it’s where I grew up playing football from the age of six. My Granddad used to take me to Bramall Lane and I will always be a Blade.
I used to be a centre forward at 18 so being a Sheffield United fan, Brian Deane was a big hero of mine.
When I got scouted, I slept at my friend's house and it was his brother, Akeem and Ismail - there wasn't any space in the car because his cousin was coming to pick him up and take him to a little coaching session that was happening in a park.
I said I would go home and wait for them to come back. Ten minutes later he knocked on the door and said that the cousin's sister didn't end up coming up - the dad didn't have to bring the little girl so there was a space for me.
The rest is history. I went and trained and there was a scout from Sheffield United called Paul Archer who asked if I wanted to play for them. I never even played Sunday League football or anything. I went straight from estate football to the park at six or seven and then Sheffield United."
“Sheffield United have always produced good players and it just so happens that there are a few in the England squad now.
The club was key in shaping me into the player and person that I am now. The values that were instilled in me and the different coaches along the way helped me become the player that I am today.
I was always quicker than everybody else, and I was a centre midfielder because I could cover ground and tackle and score goals. I was a second year scholar, wanting to be in the first team, but I wasn't quite there. It was getting frustrated and my coach at the time, Travis Binnion, could see it.
“He gave me a rollocking after a game at Cardiff – I played centre midfield and didn’t think I played that bad – and told me to come in the following day, on the Sunday.
Everyone else was off and he said to come in for a coffee with him and the academy manager, Nick Cox. He sat me down and we went through England players who were my age, who were being called up, and where I wanted to be. My dreams and goals. And he said: ‘If we said to anyone about your best attributes, they'd probably put you as a centre-forward on paper. So we're going to try you as a centre-forward.'
“And it was like something switched, like I had a new lease of life. I felt like I had a chance again.”
I can't speak highly enough of my time at Sheffield United. It was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. The people were fantastic. Nigel [Clough] was fantastic for me. He's a real good man and a fantastic manager who helped me kick on and made sure we had a good season.
The league was brilliant, the things we were doing. I went there under David Weir and it was tough because we were trying to play a different way and it was a tough, tough league.
Nigel came in and really changed it, he knew the league and how to play with the players he had. We had so many games and it was brilliant, I loved every minute of it.
[In the FA Cup semi-final at Hull] we came in at half time [winning 2-1] and everyone was silent, and we all just burst out laughing.
If we'd have got to the final we'd have been in the Europa League and we were in League One. It was mental to even think of that so we just had a laugh to ourselves, and the game was incredible.
We gave a great account of ourselves and the club is brilliant, I loved it there."