Sheffield United caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom has outlined the dangers of promoting academy players.
Heckingbottom was in charge of the club’s Under-23s side before being drafted in to replace Chris Wilder on an interim basis.
With the Blades on the cusp of being relegated from the Premier League, many are asking why he doesn’t utilise his links with the academy.
United are bottom of the table with just 14 points from 31 games. Relegation could be confirmed this weekend against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Therefore calls to give youngsters a chance seem perfectly reasonable. Especially as many established names in the first team have badly underperformed in 2020/21.
Heckingbottom has handed some minutes to the crop of exciting players coming through the ranks at Bramall Lane.
Iliman Ndiaye made his debut in the 43-year-old’s first game in charge against Leicester City. Both Zak Brunt and Kyron Gordon have also made match day squads.
Heckingbottom being cautious with Sheffield United starlets
Yet as someone who works day in, day out with youngsters, Heckingbottom understands that often a cautious approach is necessary.
Many frustrated Blades fans may want to see several academy players given an opportunity. They are, after all, the future of the club.
Along with the aforementioned names, Antwoine Hackford became United’s youngest ever Premier League player back in January.
Frankie Maguire and Hassan Ayari are also considered to be rising stars.
But Heckingbottom has a message for anyone wanting to see a team full of teenagers.
“If you’re bringing them in in a controlled way, you’re managing that pressure,” he told BBC Radio Sheffield.
“But you’re certainly looking at whether they have the mentality and resilience to deal with it further down the line. You try and instil that at a young age.”
Heckingbottom continued; “There are risks involved. When we’re talking about young players stepping up for the first time for their debut, then it’s a different story.
“When you’re a young player stepping out of the academy and making your first appearance, that’s the more daunting part of it.”