Having tasked the Steelphalt Academy produce ‘athletic, quick and football intelligent warriors,’ Nigel Adkins could never be accused of setting the bar too low when it comes to development.
But the Sheffield United manager’s refusal to compromise his standards, and apply the same rigor when assessing home-grown players he uses to identify external transfer targets, confirms the 51-year-old is serious about ensuring 50 per cent of the club’s senior squad is eventually comprised of youth team graduates.
“That’s the remit,” Adkins said. “That’s exactly what we want.
“Basically to produce good football players. Athletic, quick, football intelligent and robust warriors. Because I am serious about trying to achieve the kind of levels that we’ve talked openly about in the past.”
Coaches John Dungworth and Travis Binnion, who together with Nick Cox spearhead United’s work at academy level, are clearly producing results given that Ben Whiteman, Louis Reed, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Graham Kelly will all travel to Coventry City tomorrow where, four points behind sixth-placed Barnsley with two matches remaining, Adkins’ team hopes to keep its faint play-off hopes alive. George Long and Billy Sharp, who also progressed through the ranks at Bramall Lane, are certain starters with the later searching for his 21st goal in 47 outings.
Although Adkins recently adopted a 3-5-2 formation in a bid to best utilise the options at his disposal, he explained why the under-18 and under-21 sides, which have both qualified for their own end of season play-offs, will not be forced to follow suit.
“You can talk about formations until you are blue in the face,” Adkins said. “You can take a snap shot of a game at any given time and say ‘it’s this formation or that formation.’ Things change constantly all the time. So it’s about characters and attitudes. We have a framework for those and people must fit into that.”