Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom sprung a surprise on everyone when he named young defender, Jili Buyabu, on the bench against Norwich.
With an injury ravaged squad, Heckingbottom has been taking a look at a number of young players. Andre Brooks has featured on the bench a few times but has yet to play. Oliver Arblaster has been a regular and got minutes. And at Stoke, teenager Sai Sachdev got a debut.
The inclusion of Buyabu against Norwich, then, was a nice surprise. He didn’t end up featuring but once again, it showed Heckingbottom’s willingness to expose young players to the first-team.
But just who is Jili Buyabu? Well, he’s certainly highly-rated and could well be an ace up United’s sleeve this season.
Jili Buyabu: Man In Demand
Sheffield United signed Buyabu from non-league Hornchurch back in the winter of 2021. The full-back, who is described as an ‘attacking wing-back who loves to get forward’ on United’s official website, was wanted by a host of clubs.
Per a report from the Romford Recorder at the time, Buyabu was training with Chelsea and was being looked at by Nottingham Forest as well. Previously with Crystal Palace, the 19-year-old is clearly highly-rated among scouts.
For United, it will have felt like quite a coup to land Buyabu. Praised at the time by Hornchurch manager Mark Stimson, Buyabu clearly impressed down the pyramid.
“The lad has done brilliantly for us, he came in through someone that I knew, he has been exceptional and there was interest around him. He got the trial at Sheffield United, we wish him all the best, and look out for his progress,” Stimson said at the time.
Of course, it remains to be seen if we’ll see much of Buyabu again this season. But his inclusion against Norwich will be a nice boost for him. It’s now up to him to ensure he keeps himself in the thoughts of Paul Heckingbottom.