Sheffield United v Nottingham Forest: Norrington-Davies helping to build something special at Lane

WHENEVER he hangs up his boots, a second career in construction and design might well be on the cards for Rhys Norrington-Davies.

Like a number of his Sheffield United team-mates, the defender has an interesting backstory and has got to where he has at Bramall Lane through a combination of talent, persistence, sheer force of personality and the ability to handle knockbacks.

When the team you are involved with are in the thick of a ferocious battle to finish in the Championship’s play-off spots, those are handy qualities.

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Blades stalwart Chris Basham famously worked in McDonald’s after being released by boyhood club Newcastle when he was 16.

Rhys Norrington Davies of Sheffield United.  Picture: Andrew Yates / SportimageRhys Norrington Davies of Sheffield United.  Picture: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Rhys Norrington Davies of Sheffield United. Picture: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

Rising star Iliman Ndiaye learned his skills on the streets of Paris and the Senegalese capital of Dakar before eventually finding his way to United – via non-league Boreham Wood after unsuccessfully trialling at Southampton.

Norrington-Davies’s own story saw his early dreams shattered, at the same age at Basham, when he was let go by Swansea City.

The 22-year-old, who attended the Royal Russell School in Croydon and possesses the single-minded determination which you would expect from someone whose father served in the army, found a second chance at the Blades academy.

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His progress has not come at the expense of his education either. A role in civvy street in either civil engineering or architecture may follow when he finishes playing.

For the time being, playing his part in the construction of a special season at Bramall Lane is occupying his focus.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s ‘six-pointer’ with Nottingham Forest, he said: “I did physics, maths and geology and managed to pass all of them at A level.

“If I have to go to university at any stage in the future, I will be okay. I have been thinking of civil engineering and architecture.”

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On his early blow at Swansea, he reflected: “Looking back, it was a setback in my career. At the time, it was not ideal. For instance, if I had signed up at Swansea City at 16, I would not be where I am today. But I never look back and always look forward and am in the present.”

Norrington-Davies earned his stripes in lower-division circles at Barrow and Rochdale before stepping up on loan at Luton Town and then Stoke City, while his development also earned him full international recognition with his beloved Wales, now under the command of a former Blades favourite in Rob Page.

The defender was actually born in the Saudi Arabia capital of Riyadh to Welsh parents from Aberystwyth, but considers himself as Welsh as a choir from the Valleys belting out a stirring rendition of Men of Harlech.

His national team are a tight bunch, much like his club. Both have plenty to play for this month with Wales hosting Austria in a World Cup semi-final play-off in Cardiff on March 24. The final is due to be held five days later.

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United are also eyeing play-off business, a little bit further down the line in May. Victories over their next two opponents in Forest and Middlesbrough would help their cause in that regard.

On representing Wales despite his place of birth, Norrington-Davies added: “With the Prince here (Sheffield United owner Prince Abdullah), it is always a laugh and a joke with my ‘old man’ as I was born in Saudi Arabia. But I am Welsh through and through and all my childhood memories are from Wales and that is home for me.

“I had Rob Page as my Wales Under-21 manager and got to know him reasonably well and then more recently in the first team as well. It was great to work under Rob as he obviously has some fond memories of his time at Sheffield United.”

Last six games: Sheffield United WDDWWL; Nottingham Forest LWWDDW.

Referee: J Smith (Lincs).

Last time: Sheffield United 2 Nottingham Forest 0, April 19, 2019; Championship.

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