Jamal Blackman was not a familiar name when he arrived at Sheffield United in the summer, but that is changing swiftly.
The Chelsea goalkeeper – who signed a new long-term deal at Stamford Bridge before joining the Blades on a season-long loan – has impressed at United since stepping in for the injured Simon Moore.
Yet to make a senior appearance at Chelsea, he starred for Wycombe Wanderers on a season-long loan in League Two last year and has carried that fine form into the Championship, helping United to third in the table after the first quarter of the season.
Blackman’s fine displays have allowed Blades’ manager Chris Wilder to ease Moore back after his knee injury, having him on the bench for United’s last three outings.
Blackman, who turns 24 later this month, accepts mistakes by a goalkeeper are often scrutinised.
But he has quickly bridged the gap between League Two and the Championship. Hardly surprising for a goalkeeper who has worked alongside the likes of world stars Thibaut Coutois and Petr Cech at Stamford Bridge.
“I think I have done alright so far,” he said. “Obviously, I am still learning and progressing in my career.
“I want to take as much as I possibly can on board.
“The Championship is a great league, obviously it’s a hard division.
“But it’s a great step for me, coming from League Two where I learned so much in that league.
As a goalkeeper you can go 89 minutes where you don’t have much to do, and in that one minute you have to make a crucial save. Goalkeepers make a mistake, and it’s a goal conceded. Strikers make a mistake and they get another chance.Sheffield United goalkeeper, Jamal Blackman
“To now play higher up in the league is a great learning curve.
“Everyone says the main thing as a goalkeeper is to keep the ball out of the goal.
“In all levels of football, that’s the same. Obviously different opponents (at higher levels) you face does make that difficult.
“It’s a lot harder in the Championship, teams are more competitive, with the structure of the teams and their formations.
“As a goalkeeper you can go 89 minutes where you don’t have much to do, and in that one minute you have to make a crucial save.
“Goalkeepers make a mistake and it’s a goal conceded. Strikers make a mistake and they get another chance.”
The Blades were a bit of an unknown quantity after winning the League One title last season.
Taking just three points from their opening three Championship games, though, failed to tell the whole story.
Back-to-back defeats at Middlesbrough and Cardiff City – two clubs with playing budgets that dwarf United’s – gave a distorted perspective on the Blades’ early efforts.
Since defeat in Wales, United have won six out of their last eight Championship outings, winning many new admirers along the way.
“It’s been a great experience, so far,” said Blackman. “Everyone has been really welcoming and we have been doing so well.
“Coming up from League One, we have proven we are here and ready to compete in the Championship.
“It’s all been about playing our own game and being able to impose ourselves, show that we are not here to make up numbers, but compete.
“It helps us being able to play our game, not think about all the big names we are coming up against, and show them what we can do.
“Coming from League One, the gaffer has put together a great game plan, and the games obviously show other teams that we are here to play football, score goals, and keep clean sheets if possible.
“You learn from each game, no two games are the same. There are always learning curves going on. We have a great goalkeeping coach and Simon Moore and Jake Eastwood, too, helping me to learn and to progress my career.
“It’s great to have these other goalkeepers around me, training has been great. I am learning from them, they have strengths, and it’s helping me to become a better goalkeeper.”
The Blades now face back-to-back home games, starting with Ipswich Town today, before Reading’s visit next weekend.
They boast a mean defensive record at Bramall Lane, conceding just twice in five Championship outings.
“It’s not just the back four, the whole team is defending from the front, pressing and working together,” said Blackman.
“It’s a great team to play in, everyone wants to win, that helps everyone to work even harder.
“The staff here make that a main work ethic, and it helps with everyone being able to lean on each other.”