Chris Wilder believes securing the future of top prospect David Brooks is a further sign the culture of Sheffield United is changing.
The United chief and lifelong Blades fan is no stranger to seeing some of Bramall Lane’s finest talent sold over the years.
There is around £100m-worth of players – headed by the likes of Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire and Dominic Calvert-Lewin – who have plied their trade in the Premier League which came through United’s Academy.
The rapid emergence of 20-year-old Brooks has seen the Premier League vultures start to gather over Bramall Lane.
Set for a six-month loan spell in League Two with Chesterfield at the start of the season, United had a change of heart after being impressed with Brooks on returning from summer duty with England at the Under-20 Toulon Tournament.
That now looks a very wise choice, as Brooks has been one of the shining lights in the Championship, helping the Blades to third, and even earning a call-up to the Wales squad for their recent World Cup qualifiers.
Brooks – who has just three league starts for United on his CV – has been rewarded with a four-year deal, and Wilder believes the Blades are building for the future.
“I know the history of the club well enough to know that some big, big players – going back to the Seventies – have left,” said Wilder.
“The club, at times, have to hold their hands up and say they have possibly made poor decisions at the time. But I think in this day and age there is a hell of a lot of pressure on players from agents, who obviously make money by moving players on.
“Players are being run by agents, but this boy (Brooks) isn’t being run by his agent.
The club has sold it’s best young players before – and at crucial times. Not everyone is in the same situation, but we want to build and improve, and do that by keeping hold of our best players.Sheffield United boss, Chris Wilder.
“He wants to stay here, he made that perfectly clear to his agent, and the agent has to do a deal with the club.
“Sometimes players don’t want to be here, agents don’t want the players to be here, and you are in a no-win situation. Then you have to get the best possible deal for the football club.
“But as soon as we stepped into the Championship, with the environment of this division and where we are going, things changed pretty quickly.
“I said at the start of last year, the power has to come back to the football club.
“Sometimes, if the players don’t want to be here, I am not going to put a gun to their head.
“The club has sold it’s best young players before – and at crucial times.
“Not everyone is in the same situation, but we want to build and improve, and do that by keeping hold of our best players.
“He (Brooks) enjoys his football, you can see that by the way he plays, and this is the right club for him. I am not going to say he will be here for the next 10-15 years, you don’t know what’s round the corner in football. But he sees his immediate future here and I am delighted.”
Spending six years in League One meant United could not stand in the way of players leaving when lucrative offers came in.
Maguire – tipped for England duty at next summer’s World Cup – is rated one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League, while striker Calvert-Lewin was a snip at the £1m paid by Everton for his services.
Not even the most ardent Blades supporter could have imagined that defender Kyle Walker would warrant a £50m transfer fee when he swapped Tottenham for Manchester City.
After returning to the Championship, United are in a better bargaining position to keep their top performers.
“When a Premier League club comes knocking and the player and agent wants to go it’s difficult for any club or manager in League One to keep hold of those players,” added Wilder.
“We always knew it would be easy to keep hold of younger players – be stronger with them – if we got into the Championship. We have certainly done that. I am not chucking the club under the bus, by any means. I am an employee, but I think they see what we are trying to do.
“We are trying to build, to keep our best players. We have done so with John Fleck, we did (with) other players at the start of pre-season, we have done Brooks, and there will be more along the way.
“Sometimes there’s casualties, and sometimes things get taken out of your hands. We want to keep our best players, but only if they want to stay. Brooks wants to stay, we want him to stay, and we are in a lot more powerful position than in League One.
“The medium- and long-term planning of this club is really important to me. I have talked to the owners about this, and we want to build, at our way and our pace.”
Of reported interest from top-flight clubs in Brooks, he added: “If Real Madrid and Barcelona fancy him, then that’s great because he is doing something right.
“He’s a good young player. Speculation only comes through really good performances, and he’s produced some really good performances. We have a really good group of players, and he is part of that group.”