Newcastle United v Sheffield United: The midweek scouting mission which gave Chris Wilder fresh hope

IT IS the job of a football manager to search every cloud for a silver lining.

There have been plenty of murky clouds over Sheffield United this season, and defeat at Newcastle United will confirm a relegation from the Premier League (Nottingham Forest's appeal against a financial fair play punishment notwithstanding) that has been in the wash for an awful long time.

The news that Oli McBurnie – and possibly James McAtee – have joined an injury list the writers of Casualty would think was a bit far-fetched ahead of Saturday's trip to Newcastle United should come as no surprise to anyone.

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McBurnie joins captain John Egan, vice-captain Chris Basham and Jack Robinson, who he took the armband from, in the treatment room.

Image: Andrew Yates / SportimageImage: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Image: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

But the choice of the next recipient in this footballing game of pass the parcel drops a very heavy hint about the Blades' thinking.

Oliver Arblaster, a 20-year-old midfielder who spent the first half of the season on loan at Port Vale, led his local team out at Old Trafford in only his eighth Premier League appearance. Alongside him in central midfield was Andre Brooks – another who had not played top-flight football before this season. Striker Will Osula, a third 20-year-old, came off the bench in the 4-2 defeat at Old Trafford.

On Thursday, first-team manager Chris Wilder was at Bramall Lane, scouting his under-21s team in their 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday.

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"We're not blessed at the moment in terms of strength but yet again it will open up for a couple of younger boys who were absolutely outstanding in the under-21 derby to maybe be involved in the squad and get them the taste and the feel of being involved in the environment of a first-team game in the Premier League," he said.

"(There's) nowhere better to go than up the road in terms of the atmosphere and vibrancy and all the emotion attached to that game.

"I'm looking and I'm going, 'Wow, we've talked about Blaster, Brooks, (Daniel) Jebbison and Osula and we can start talking about these youngsters now.

"I'm not putting pressure on because they can handle it because of the way they've been nurtured and brought, which has been outstanding in the academy working with the ex-pros, Del Geary, Micky Collins and the boys in there.

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"From an attitude and a talent point of view, we're really in a good place and looking forward to them developing as well.

"So maybe part of the next three or four games will see the introduction of those boys.

"We have to be careful we don't break them as well, (that) they don't have incredibly poor experiences so timing has got to be good but them being around the first team will be good and I'm looking forward to them being involved in the last few games of the season."

Wilder and his fellow Blades fans need the filip young blood can provide with the seniors so painfully out of their depth this season.

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"It has been a difficult couple of weeks because we believed we were in decent nick and would get the chance to turn big performances into big results," he reflects.

"The Brentford and Burnley games have sealed our fate because we'd have been in with a fighting chance (of avoiding relegation had they won, rather than lost, both).

"I'm incredibly positive about this football club.

"Short team pain, we've had to deal with it and own it and we'll come back."

When they do, they will have a very different, very youthful, look to them.

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