Sheffield United’s first team squad could be set for a return to China after Bramall Lane’s hierarchy signed a co-operation agreement with civic leaders in Urumqi, writes James Shield.
The relationship between Bramall Lane and the capital of Xinjiang province, described as the most landlocked city in the world, was cemented when players from the Redtooth Academy visited the region last month.
The tour included a fixture against a local first division team which drew a 15,000 crowd.
United director Simon McCabe, who travelled with the squad, said: “The visit was an undoubted success.
“We were able to spread the word about the Blades in terms of our heritage, our facilities and the potential of the club on and off the pitch.
“We were very well received wherever we went and I believe there will be real long term benefits for all concerned.
“There is a strong chance that the club will return to the region of China, including the possibility of the first team.”
United prepared for the 2005/6 Championship season, which saw them gain promotion to the Premier League, in China.
Representatives from the The Hualing Group of Urumqi, who helped arrange United’s most recent trip to the People’s Republic, have been present at Bramall Lane this week.
Kevin McCabe, United’s co-owner, said: “The club enjoys a strong tradition of developing footballing and commercial relationships on an international basis.
“Through the connections with my business group, Scarborough Group International, this provides a further opportunity for the club.
“I would personally like to thank Mr Mi from The Hualing Group and his colleagues who have made the tour possible. Hopefully this will be the first of many trips to the region and the club will see commercial benefits.”
Nick Cox, United’s academy manager, said: “This was a terrific trip for the lads to gain new experiences as their careers develop with us. Playing in front of 15,000 fans was a fantastic experience for the squad when they faced Xinjiang Snow Leopards.”