MUCH like the Sheffield United team-mates who he will be rubbing shoulders with shortly, Luke Freeman’s footballing journey has taken a long and winding road.
Released from first club Charlton Athletic for being too small and forced to rebuild his career at the likes of Yeovil and Stevenage after a dream chance at stardom with Arsenal passed him by, Freeman has earned his shot at the Premier League the hard way – much like the vast majority of Blades players who have traipsed through the muck-and-nettles of the Football League.
Freeman will be unveiled as a Blades player shortly, with the Premier League new boys having agreed a £3m deal with QPR.
But alongside persistence, the midfielder, who will become United’s first signing of the close season for a fee which Chris Wilder has described as a ‘bargain’, possesses undoubted polish and the statistics to match, according to his new manager.
The fact that since his Championship debut in 2015-16, Freeman has created more chances than any other player and has assisted in more goals is unlikely to have been lost upon Wilder either.
He can create and he can score. I am sure he can play a part in this group. He is a bargain. It is a decent number for us, but in terms of the division we are in, we are happy. Luke has been up there in terms of the top Championship performers.Chris Wilder
Having looked into the whites of Freeman’s eyes, the 27-year-old also has the requisite desire in the view of Wilder, who has been on the trail of the Dartford-born player for the past 12 months.
On Freeman, who has previously been on the radar of both Leeds United and Middlesbrough, Wilder said: “It has been well-documented that a lot of clubs have looked at him. The obvious thing is we have got that Premier League carrot.
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“He is enthusiastic, dynamic and talented. His statistics are right up there. We look at the statistics, the key ones we look at for players, and then also reports and my own eyes.
“Also, we look at when we have played against him. He can create and he can score. I am sure he can play a part in this group.
“He is a bargain. It is a decent number for us, but in terms of the division we are in, we are happy.
“Luke has been up there in terms of the top Championship performers.
“Being left-footed, that gives us a bit of balance. He is at the right age and he started at Arsenal and went away.
“When you walk back onto the training ground, you can see a glint in all of their eyes. They want to take it on.
“They want to stay in the division. We do not want it to be one season. We do not want it to be a day trip if you like, in and out.
“We do not want people who are just seeing their career out. We want them to have that attitude, to kick on and improve.”
For headline Blades trialist Ravel Morrison, reigniting a career which has plummeted spectacularly after seemingly being destined for greatness in its infancy at Manchester United represents his own all-consuming challenge after linking up with the club this week.
Suffice to say the 26-year-old arrives complete with plenty of ‘baggage’ after some much-publicised off-the-field problems in the past.
But harnessing the exceptional skills that marked him out as a star in the making in his formative years by no less an authority than Sir Alex Ferguson – who once famously said that Morrison had more talent than Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney as a youngster – is something that Wilder will feel is well within the scope of his powers.
A canny man-manager and keen observer of quality when he sees it, Wilder – after doing his due diligence in terms of background checks regarding Morrison’s current mindset and stage of his career – is happy to back his judgement and hand the Mancunian a cherished chance to earn himself a deal following his release from Swedish side Osterlund last month.
Wilder said: “He is going to come in for the week. We will take it and talk.
“He wants to get himself back up and running. That shows what he is about. I have spoken to him, he wants to come in and he has got a point to prove.
“We cannot be a snob in terms of where we get players. We cannot be. We will look at him, we will talk and potentially we have got the option to take him to Portugal (pre-season trip).
“Everybody talks about the unique and unbelievable talent he has got. Potentially it is a good fit for both of us.
“It came about through talk, through agents and people we know in the game. I have not talked to him about other options. He just wants to give this a go.”
Young left-back Rhys Norrington-Davies has joined Rochdale on a season-long loan.
The defender’s move follows on from winger Nathan Thomas joining Gillingham on loan for the whole of 2019-20.