Sheffield United: Former academy star set for Champions League

Aymen Tahar (left) during his spell with Staveley Miners Welfare
Aymen Tahar (left) during his spell with Staveley Miners Welfare

Five seasons after plying his trade for Staveley Miners Welfare, Aymen Tahar could be destined for the Champions League after signing a long-term contract with Steaua Bucharest, writes James Shield.

The former Sheffield United youngster was yesterday unveiled as the latest addition to Mirel Rădoi’s squad as the Romanian champions prepare for the qualifying rounds of Europe’s premier club competition.

Tahar’s arrival at Steaua marks the latest twist in a remarkable story which has seen him progress from Inkersall Road to the Arena Națională in three short years. Ron Reid, who was responsible for honing the midfielder’s skills during his spell at Bramall Lane, last night insisted Tahar’s rise to prominence “doesn’t surprise” him at all.

“Aymen deserves this,” Reid, who honed Tahar’s skills at Shirecliffe, told The Star. “And, to be honest, it really doesn’t shock me at all because of the ability he had back then.

“The lad was never blessed with great pace but he didn’t need it because he was a student of the game. Both in a technical sense and also in terms of news too.

“Aymen often gave us little snippets of information about what was going on in football because he gleaned every bit of information he could from the newspapers and magazines. He researched different managers and the styles in different countries.”

Ron Reid worked with Aymen Tahar at Sheffield United's academy

Ron Reid worked with Aymen Tahar at Sheffield United's academy

Tahar made one appearance for United before joining then sister club Ferencvaros in 2010. The 25-year-old briefly returned to England - with Staveley - after leaving Hungary and arrives at Steaua via compatriots Gaz Metan Mediaș.

So why does Rădoi think Tahar is capable of facing the likes of Chelsea, Juventus and Barcelona when one of Nigel Adkins’ predecessors deemed him worthy of only a brief cameo in the 2009 FA Cup?

Reid believes the player was a victim of philosophy and circumstance.

“At that particular time, the people in charge of the first team wanted to go in a different direction,” he said. “They weren’t really that interested in blooding youngsters but, fortunately, that’s changed now because United have always been about that.”

Aymen Tahar's new club faced Chelsea in the Champions League last season

Aymen Tahar's new club faced Chelsea in the Champions League last season

“Aymen has been brave by going abroad,” Reid added. “That will have made him stronger as a person and a player, I’m sure.”

Tahar was initially recommended to United after impressing coaches at Football Unites, Racism Divides; the same project responsible for delivering Kyle Walker to the League One club.

Reid, its academy director until 2009, is a proud exponent of his former employers’ youth system which has also produced talents such as Kyle Naughton, Harry Maguire and Stephen Quinn in recent years. Fellow graduates Louis Reed, George Long and Diego De Girolamo could enjoy prominent roles when United attempt to regain Championship status next term.

“We focused on what was called the ‘Five R’s’ and based all our work around that,” Reid said. “Receiving the ball, releasing the ball, running with the ball etcetera. That was because we though, if the lads were technically sound, they could play anywhere.

Aymen Tahar has moved to Bucharest

Aymen Tahar has moved to Bucharest

“Aymen came to us from FURD and he fitted in straight away. We liked him right from the off.

“I really do wish him all the best because he’s worked hard and is a smashing lad.”

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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Ron Reid helped establish Sheffield United's academy as one of the finest in the country

Ron Reid helped establish Sheffield United's academy as one of the finest in the country