Wigan Athletic v Sheffield United – Kieran Dowell desperate to mak impact at Blades

Watching brief: Kieran Dowell watches the Blades from the dugout.
Watching brief: Kieran Dowell watches the Blades from the dugout.
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NEW Sheffield United signing Kieran Dowell has revealed that input from former Blades players Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Phil Jagielka helped convince him to join the club despite considerable rival interest.

The highly-rated Everton midfielder has joined the Championship promotion-chasers for the rest of the season with his loan officially starting tomorrow.

Dowell, subject of interest from Scottish club Rangers and several second-tier sides, is likely to make his debut in the FA Cup tie against Barnet at Bramall Lane on Sunday.

The Blades tried to sign Dowell in the summer only to be told by Everton that he was unavailable at that time.

But persistence has paid off for Blades’ manager Chris Wilder, who is also targeting two or three other loan signings to boost his side’s promotion prospects.

Dowell, 21, admits that the Blades’ achievements already this season speak for themselves, but further consultation with good friend Calvert-Lewin and Jagielka further convinced him that he was making the right move when choosing to continue his football development at United.

Dowell said: “They are top lads. Dom obviously is one of my good mates at Everton and came through the (Blades) academy and said great things about the city and club. Obviously Jags is a legend here. They both spoke really highly of the club.

“Jags came to one of the games against Sheffield Wednesday and he was saying that the atmosphere was brilliant and that it was a massive game. They both said only good things about the club.

“I was obviously talking to Dom all the time and he has been in the loop. He has always said that I would love it here with the way we play and he has seen it a bit more recently with the manager. I had conversations with Jags and he loves the club as well.”

The England Under-21 international is eager to make up for lost time after featuring just twice for Everton this term – in the Carabao Cup.

Phil Jagielka was a Bramall Lane favourite and helped convince Kieran Dowell a loan move to Sheffield United would be worthwhile.

Phil Jagielka was a Bramall Lane favourite and helped convince Kieran Dowell a loan move to Sheffield United would be worthwhile.

The Ormskirk-born player enjoyed a successful loan spell at Nottingham Forest last season, scoring 10 goals in 43 appearances, and he is hoping to play his part in a successful promotion push for the Blades with the club’s attractive style of football being a further lure in his decision to opt for the club.

Dowell added: “I remember when we played Sheffield United last season with Forest. In the first half at home at the City Ground it felt suffocating playing against them.

“I remember speaking afterwards with my mates saying that it would be great to play for Sheffield United.

“Football-wise it is them and Wolves who played the best football (in 2017-18).

I am a young lad who has had one loan already and I am looking to make that next step to bridge the gap to the Premier League. I do not think there is a better place to do it.

Kieran Dowell

“I always had that in my mind in my thinking when I had a few options for January.

“I think it is the style of football and intense attacking play that is a big attraction.

“I am a young lad who has had one loan already and I am looking to make that next step to bridge the gap to the Premier League. I do not think there is a better place to do it.”

On the books since a young age at the self-styled ‘People’s Club’ on Merseyside, Dowell is quick to appreciate similarities between the humble ethos at Goodison Park and Bramall Lane.

After being brought up on one of the most fervent derbies in the country, between Everton and Liverpool, Dowell is eager to sample the similarly intense cross-city rivalry between the Blades and Sheffield Wednesday.

He added: “Speaking to the manager one of the first things he said was about how United have been down into League One and there was always that rivalry and they are (now) doing better than Wednesday – but are also a bit more modest and happy to be in that position.

Kieran Dowell (left), in action while on loan at Nottingham Forest, battles with Leeds United's Jay-Roy Grot at the City Ground last season. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA

Kieran Dowell (left), in action while on loan at Nottingham Forest, battles with Leeds United's Jay-Roy Grot at the City Ground last season. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA

“Obviously they beat Wednesday (last season) and it is a massive game. It is always nice to have those sort of games in the season.

“Last season at Forest it was almost like rival cities (Nottingham and Derby), but now the rivalry is in the city and you walk around the city and you see Wednesday as well as United fans rather than just all Forest fans (in Nottingham).

“Obviously Billy Sharp is a Sheffield United legend and the gaffer as well. I think it just brings that connection with the fans that little bit more and they are living what the fans want to do.”

The Blades, who expect shortly to finalise a deal to keep utility man Martin Cranie at the club for the end of the season, have loaned young striker Tyler Smith to Doncaster Rovers for the remainder of 2018-19.

On Cranie – who could line up from the start today with Chris Basham suspended, Wilder said: “He has been offered an extension, so he is staying until the end of the season.

“He is a great lad and a good player. The form of Basham has made it really difficult for him to force his way in, but I have no issue in sticking him in at all. His day-to-day attitude has been outstanding.”

Wigan loanee Lee Evans, whose loan deal from the Blades will now be made permanent, is unlikely to feature in today’s Roses fixture.

Last six games: Wigan DLLLLD Sheffield United LWLDWW.

Referee: A Madley (West Yorkshire).

Last time: Wigan 3 Sheffield United 3; January 12, 2016; League One.