Signing Joe Riley marks the latest phase of Chris Wilder’s plan to convince English football’s leading clubs that Bramall Lane is the perfect place to park their best young talent.
Earlier this season, midway through his overhaul of Sheffield United’s first team squad, the League One leaders’ manager explained why top flight sides would be better served sending up-and-coming players to South Yorkshire rather than placing them with Championship clubs instead.
Highlighting a number of variables, including average attendances and expectation levels, to back-up his claims, Wilder subsequently announced that Middlesbrough’s Harry Chapman would be joining United on a season long loan. Although the England under-20 international has since returned to Teesside after suffering an injury, Riley’s arrival from Manchester United confirms that message is now getting through.
“If you are being earmarked to perform at Premier League level, you are going to have to play in front of big crowds and cope with being expected to win,” Wilder said. “Those are two things we definitely got here. Our gates are bigger than most a division above and, when you play for a team of this stature in this league, the pressure is always on. There’s a demand to achieve.”
Although United must be careful not to stifle the development of their own young players - the Steelphalt Academy has produced the likes of Kyle Walker, Stephen Quinn and Kyle Naughton in recent years - Wilder believes this aspect of his recruitment strategy can give them an edge after Riley’s loan move from Manchester United was confirmed.
“Joe is a young player who is comfortable playing on both the right or left,” he said. “That versatility will be important to us. We are delighted to have him with us for the remainder of the season and happy that Manchester United have allowed him to further his development here.”