Young striker Jake Wright has the potential to carve out a long and prosperous career with Sheffield United - according to the manager who arguably knows him best.
Wright, who scored his first goal of the season on Friday night as United’s U21s beat Penistone Church in a pre-season friendly, enjoyed a spell at Toolstation Northern Counties East side Hallam FC last season and netted an incredible 14 times in seven games.
And Ryan Hindley, the Hallam boss who brought 18-year-old Wright to Sandygate, said: “He is, without doubt, the best player I have ever worked with and hopefully, from here, he will get even better.
“If he continues to go from strength to strength then I think he’ll have a very successful professional career.
“He wants to be a footballer and he wants to score goals, hopefully that will happen at Sheffield United and, if he continues to work as hard as he does, I see no reason why not.
“He has a great first touch, he’s brave and he brings other into play. His all-round play, as a striker, is top class.”
Wright, who enjoyed a similar spell at Ilkeston FC after leaving Hallam, remains close to Hindley and was back at Sandygate last week to watch his former teammates beat Sheffield FC on penalties and lift the Alan Cooper Memorial Trophy.
The Manchester-born youngster was one of six second-year scholars awarded professional contracts by United back in May, and Wright will hope to catch the eye of new United boss Nigel Adkins with more pre-season goals.
“Jake fitted in really well with us here at Hallam,” Hindley added.
“There was no arrogance about him in the dressing room. He just got on with everyone, and I think we helped him come out of his shell a little bit.
“He developed a bit of banter, which he had to because he wore some questionable tight clothing and the lads let him know about it!
“He’s remained close to us all ever since; the lads loved him and I think he loved them. In fact, when he found out he was getting a professional deal at United, I was the first person he rang, before his parents or his mates.
“He said it was down to me but I told him it was all him, all down to his talent and dedication. I’d just given him the platform to express it, which I was delighted to do because he’s a great kid. Hopefully, he won’t be the last to come here and enjoy it.”
Any future Hallam loanees will have big boots to fill, however. Wright’s 14-goal tally for the Countrymen could have been 21, Hindley reckons, if he took penalties. And an average of three goals per game is some achievement, at any level.
When he found out he was getting a professional deal at United, I was the first person he rang. He said it was down to me but I told him it was all him, all down to his talent and dedication. I’d just given him the platform to express it, which I was delighted to do because he’s a great kid.Ryan Hindley, Hallam FC manager
“He is unselfish as well, which is good to see,” Hindley, an ex-Sheffield Wednesday trainee who played over 400 games in non-league, added.
“I’ve played and seen a lot of football, and don’t tend to get excited about players anymore. But Jake is different.
We always thought he’d score when he had the ball, and I’ve not had that feeling with a player for a long time.
“He can improve, of course; any young player can. He needs to build physically... I told him all the time that he goes down too easily but, to be fair to him, he was routinely clattered by defenders at our level!
“But he’s a nightmare to play against. A real pest. After he left us and went to Ilkeston, four opposition players got sent off in four games. I saw him after his first game for them and he was yellow, because he’d put that much effort in.
“One time he did take a penalty for us, which he’d won, because he’d scored two and I wanted him to get his hat-trick. He missed it, because I think he was semi-conscious from the clattering he got from the defender. He went through him so hard, I think he got whiplash!
“He always wants to learn and improve, and always asks questions about how he can get better. He’s got all the tools to be a very good professional player and, above all, he’s a wonderful person, too.”
United boss Nigel Adkins, of course, is no stranger to blooding youngsters, having worked with the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw during his time at Southampton, and will keep a close eye on the club’s crop of young talent.
“Pre-season is such a key time for players,” Hindley continued.
“A manager can go into it with a firm idea of his team for the first game of the season, but it can all change so much between now and then. Hopefully that happens with Jake.
“It’s a lot to ask, of course, but it’s exciting to see what next season holds for him but if he goes out on loan, he will score goals.
“I know Chris Morgan is a big fan of Jake’s, and I’m sure he’ll pass that on to Nigel. He reminds me a lot of Billy Sharp; he’s always in the box, pestering defenders and if he gets a chance, he’ll put it away.”
Hindley’s Hallam host United’s U18s on July 28, although Wright is likely to be on U21 duty at Matlock on the same evening.
“If Jake did ever play against us, a part of me would be happy if he scored against us,” Hindley admitted.
“I’m a born winner and I hate losing. But I’d have a sneaky smile on my face if Jake found the net, as he probably would!
“Even better, he’d score a hat-trick, then put one in his own net and we’d win 4-3!
“But I’d like to think that Hallam is where he really started his career. And if he comes back to me in a few years, shakes my hand and says just that, I’ll be a very proud man.”