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New signing scores on debut and Cardiff starlet reportedly targeted as Sheffield United academy impresses

The Sheffield United academy is continuing to impress.

There is little to shout about in terms of the first team currently, with the Blades on course to be relegated this season.

Ahead of hosting Liverpool on Sunday, they are bottom of the Premier League table and 14 points from safety.

Yet the future is looking incredibly bright at the club.

Investment in Chris Wilder’s squad has been criticised. But there is little doubting the commitment the owners have shown to the academy.

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Derek Geary manages the Under-18s, while former Barnsley, Leeds United and Hibernian boss, Paul Heckingbottom, is in charge of the Under-23s.

Everything is overseen by head of academy, Jack Lester.

Owner Prince Abdullah has invested in improving facilities off the pitch. This includes developing the Shirecliffe training ground and the academy.

The latter could even move to its own site in the near future, with the old RAF Norton Aerodrome site having been earmarked. This would then allow the academy to achieve category one status.

Of course, it’s accepted the fruits of this labour won’t be seen in the first team for some time. Although there has already been some evidence.

How the Sheffield United academy has impressed

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Manager Chris Wilder has already given opportunities to promising youngsters this term.

Antwoine Hackford became the club’s youngest ever Premier League player when he came off the bench against Crystal Palace earlier this year.

Fellow academy stars Zak Brunt, Kyron Gordon and Frankie Maguire have also been named in match day squads in recent times.

Then there is the increasingly impressive Hassan Ayari. The 19-year-old scored and assisted for Tunisia in a 2-0 win over Namibia last week at the Under-20s African Cup of Nations.

Iliman Ndiaye is another catching the eye for the Under-23s. That’s before we get to those doing well away from Bramall Lane on loan.

Ismaila Coulibaly is an established first team player for K Beerschot VA in the Belgian top flight. Rhys Norrington-Davies is now a full Wales international after doing well in the Championship with Luton Town and now Stoke City.

Meanwhile, Regan Slater and Tyler Smith are on loan in League One with Hull City and Swindon Town respectively.

Who else is coming through?

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Yet the talent keeps on coming in South Yorkshire.

As Yorkshire Live reports, Will Lankshear has signed scholarship terms with the Blades after leaving Arsenal.

Lankshear made an immediate impression for the Under-18s against Nottingham Forest at the weekend, almost scoring after coming off the bench.

Then there is Cardiff City prospect Kieron Evans, whom Wales Online claim is wanted by United.

Burnley, Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion are also said to be interested in Evans, who has been impressing in the Cardiff Under-23s.

Yet to make his Bluebirds debut, the 19-year-old is believed to be on the cusp of Mick McCarthy’s first team. He’s been named on the bench four times this term.

Cardiff don’t want Evans to leave, but the Wales Under-19s international could have his head turned.

All of this shows the time and investment the Blades are putting into their academy at present.

Things on the pitch for the first team might be a little bleak of late. But the future looks extremely bright.

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