SUFC Academy, located at Shirecliffe since its opening its doors in the early 2000s, has seen the likes of Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, David Brooks, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Aaron Ramsdale all progress through the academy ranks.
Paul Heckingbottom and Jack Lester’s progression to work predominantly with the first team has enabled Sheffield United to implement an exciting Academy restructure.
The duo, previously U23s lead coach and Academy manager, before promotion to the roles of football manager and head of player development respectively in November, continue to have an input on progress of the teams and players based at the Randox Health Academy at Shirecliffe.
Heckingbottom and Lester have played prominent roles in promoting Derek Geary from U18s lead coach to Academy Manager and Michael Collins from head of individual player development to U23s lead coach.
Additionally, former England U21s manager, Aidy Boothroyd, has been recruited as a coach mentor and consultant at the Academy. Formerly manager at Watford and Coventry City – he spent over seven years with elite development stage players at the Football Association.
A Yorkshireman and well-respected in coaching circles, Boothroyd will assist United’s technical staff in all areas in an attempt to educate and improve standards within the Academy.
Further appointments will be made in due course as the club looks to fill the U18s lead coach and head of individual player development roles vacated by the promotions of Geary and Collins, whilst additional positions to further boost the expertise within the Academy to continue the excellent work that supports the club’s young players on a daily basis are expected to be filled in the near future.
BladesFootball manager Paul Heckingbottom commented: “One of the pillars of our strategic plan, announced in November, involved sustainability and that includes player and staff development. We believe in our Academy, we’ve had nine debutants in 2021, our Academy has a great history in the development of youth, and these appointments are a sign that we want this to continue.
“Over the past couple of years, Jack (Lester) has put together a fantastic coaching team within the Academy and the appointments of Del (Geary), Micky (Collins) and Aidy (Boothroyd), to supplement some fantastic people we already have in the club, emphasises that we want to be known as one the best developers of young players. One of our priorities is investing in what we’ve already got and making it better
“With me being with the first team, there’s that familiarity when the players come up, we can make sure the pathway is clear in terms of opportunity. There will be good communication up and down the chain, a good integration of staff too, and these new appointments will be given the freedom to develop in their roles to the benefit of the Football Club.
“Because we’ve had a few debuts and because we’ve got good staffing in the Academy, we’re developing a reputation where we can attract players. If a young player is making a decision based on finance and facilities, we understand Sheffield United might not be for them, but we hope it would be if the driver for young players and parents are development and opportunity.”