Sheffield United striker Antwoine Hackford became Sheffield United’s youngest Premier League player when he made his debut in the 2-0 defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday. The youngster came on with 10 minutes to go after impressing in the under 18s and under 23s and continues the club’s fine tradition of producing first team players from their Shirecliffe academy. The Blades arrived at Selhurst Park with nine players missing as a result of illness, injury and suspension. There were only five senior players left to fill the bench, which opened the door for Hackford to be given his opportunity after impressing at under 18s and under 23s. It’s a shot in the arm also for Jack Lester and Paul Heckingbottom, who have been working with the young striker. But what’s the chances of more youngsters following in Hackford’s footsteps?
Chris Wilder said “I didn’t want to bring four or five of the young players in because I didn’t feel that was fair on them. I’ve got to look at the academy and say who potentially has got the ability and the qualities that might kick on through. Me picking Hackford tells a story. You can’t compare our academy to anyone else’s. It’s quite uneducated if you understand what happens at Chelsea’s and Arsenal’s and Man City’s academies compared to ours. It would destroy some of the young players at our place. Not being disrespectful, but we’re way behind from an academy point of view. We’re category two in two divisions where the majority, if not all, are category one. This a part of the club we’re looking to develop, so we have to be really careful to pick out the one or the one or two who have the strengths. Our players might develop over the next two or three years but a 14-year-old boy four years ago signing for our academy when we are a League One club is now 18 and possibly would have expected us to be playing mid-table Championship football if we’d progressed in the way we should have progressed. Now, we’re asking them to be involved in a team in the Premier League. It’s quite difficult.”
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