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Club News

Academy success

24 July 2017

The latest batch of youngsters from Sheffield United's impressive SteelPhalt Academy set off for a prestigious international tournament in Northern Ireland this week as part of the next stage in their development.

It is the type of journey that has been taken before by some former Blades kids who are now notable names in the professional game - England and Everton star Phil Jagielka, right back Kyle Walker, whose transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester City could eventually match the world record fee for a defender, and Harry Maguire, who has already commanded two multi-million pound deals.

The big name Premier League players epitomise why the United Academy has such a remarkable reputation in the game. The Blades are the only English club outside the Premier League to feature in the top 10 in a recent study of clubs whose academy graduates have played the most minutes at the top level of English football.

Unsurprisingly, Manchester United, Tottenham and Manchester City make up the top three, But the Blades come in at high flying eighth, one place above champions Chelsea.

The findings not only put a smile on the face of Academy boss Travis Binnion but are also acknowledgement for 15 years hard work and investment at the facilities at Shirecliffe in the north of Sheffield.

"We have got a real depth to what we do which is adding value to the players...not just in terms of talent, skills development and financially, which is clearly important, but as individuals who are well-rounded and capable of making their way in life," said Travis.

"It is great to see the findings of the report but it is the other aspects which have contributed significantly to our reputation. Parents and families see that clearly when they bring their youngsters along. It is a big plus as we seek to build on our reputation.

"The players see it as well through the achievements of some of our youngsters. It is not all about the winning but the desire to win has to be present in whatever we do," added Travis who recently participated as a coach/manager in the Jamie Vardy V9 academy to discover talent in non-league football.

Strengthening the staff at the Academy has been fundamental to recent progress under Travis as well as close relationship with first team boss Chris Wilder and head of recruitment Paul Mitchell.

"Our recruitment locally is good. Just look at Kyle, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (now with Everton and an England age group star) and Harry - I think everyone knew his family were Wednesday fans. We continue to work hard to get everyone from the age of 15 downwards in the Sheffield region to come to our Academy.

"Also, under Steve Holmes we have done well at national level and are able to spread the net and bring in quickly youngsters, who for whatever reason, did not make it with a Premier League club.

"Currently, we have David Brooks who we picked up at the aged of 17 from Manchester City. It was the same with Aaron Ramsdale (sold last season to Bournemouth) who joined us at the age of 15 from Bolton and Ben Whiteman (currently on loan at Doncaster Rovers) who came from Manchester United.

"We are big on identifying talent and seeing what others don't always see. Sometimes it is a case of the lads are simply just late developers and therefore being patient.

"More and more we are aligned to what Chris wants - I think the Academy is the closest it has ever been to bringing in players that hopefully will go on to fit with the manager's long-term plans," added Travis who saw youngsters Regan Slater and Sam Graham feature in the squad for the pre-season friendly against Chesterfield and on-loan Louis Reed for the opposition.

Getting there has been a real team approach. The Academy team features John Dungworth and Mick Wadsworth bring 70 years of experience between them, former players Jamie Annerson and Del Geary, recent recruit Chris Howarth (25 years in the game at Huddersfield and Barnsley) and last, but not least Matt Morley who has been involved since the early days of founding director Ron Reid.

The Academy has benefitted from a continuous programme of investment by the Club.

Director Scott McCabe said:" Bernard Procter and Kevin (McCabe) between them provided the funds necessary to acquire the former Forgemasters Sports Club and fields. Thereafter substantial investment was made to develop a state of the art 21st century Football Academy of which we're all proud.

"Recent changes have seen upgrading of both the indoor and outdoor pitches and further planning should see improvements and extensions to the top building at Shirecliffe. Travis has done a splendid job for many years firstly as part of the Academy team learning from past colleagues before then seamlessly taking the lead role back in 2015 - he deserves much credit.

"Take a visit to Shirecliffe on a Saturday morning and other match days and you'll be energised seeing our young stars of tomorrow learning the game from the Blades top class management team."

The last word on the Academy goes to manager Chris Wilder. He said: "Sheffield has always produced quality young players, Len Badger, Carl Bradshaw and Dane Whitehouse spring to mind and latterly Phil Jagielka and Michael Tonge before the Academy days of Billy Sharp, Matt Lowton, Kyle Naughton, Kyle Walker and more recently Harry Maguire, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aaron Ramsdale.

"The introduction of our Academy at Shirecliffe raised the bar, the statistics speak for themselves and we are delighted to remain the frontrunners in South Yorkshire."

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