Despite insisting both have bright futures at Bramall Lane, Chris Wilder does not want Ben Whiteman and Louis Reed to receive any special treatment when they complete their respective loan moves to Doncaster Rovers and Mansfield Town.
Rather, the Sheffield United manager expects both will be exposed to exactly the same pressures as any other player at the Keepmoat Stadium or Field Mill, confirming he has aborted several proposed deals after being asked to guarantee potential signings first team football.
Wilder, who earlier this month allowed David Brooks to join Chesterfield on a temporary basis, said: “We get ridiculous restrictions put on us. I do understand it in a way but if Ben Whiteman can’t get into Mansfield’s team, he won’t get into the Sheffield United team.
“If Brooksy can’t play regularly for Chesterfield then, realistically, is he ready to do it for us. Yes, there has to be a bit of a vision, in terms of where you send them and how that team plays its football. But they’ve got to be able to compete.”
Whiteman, aged 20, helped Town climb from 17th to 12th in the League Two table after moving to Nottinghamshire in January. Impressed by the progress the midfielder, United’s coaching staff opened talks about the possibility of placing him with Darren Ferguson’s side next term. Reed, who turned 19 in July, is expected to fill the void his departure created in Steve Evans’ squad when the move, revealed in The Star last week, is officially ratified.
Despite affirming his commitment to nurturing home-grown talent after being appointed 12 months ago, Wilder preferred to place his faith in experience last term. The wisdom of that decision was vindicated when United amassed 100 points en route to the League One title although, by his own admission, it did limit the opportunities available to graduates of their academy programme. That situation, Wilder insisted recently, will change as those progressing through the system acclimatise to his notoriously exacting methods.
“Last year, they (Whiteman and Reed) maybe needed six months of training with us to know what we’re all about,” he continued. “And vice versa too. We don’t want them to have guarantees on loan because that’s not what football is all about. Nobody does you a favour.”
United’s youth system has established an enviable reputation within footballing circles after producing the likes of Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker, Matthew Lowton and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who joined Everton last summer, in recent years.
Wilder, acknowledging Whiteman’s understanding of the game has improved following his spell with Mansfield, said: “It was always something we wanted to look at. When he came in, he came with Reedy and Brooksy. We’ve obviously got a good view of where they sit in the pecking order. All of them, we think, have got bright futures with the football club. “
“We’ve gone up a level and, in the future, we hope out academy will be producing players for the Championship,” he added. “Even Dom, he probably wouldn’t have played too many games for us last year. But, in 12 months time, the picture might have changed.
“It doesn’t do them any harm, going out on loan, it’s not done Ben any harm whatsoever. We’re really pleased with how he did there which is why we now want to test him a level up.”