TODAY'S Daily Mail features Men of Steel – How Sheffield United's talent factory forged the backbone of England's World Cup defence'. A fascinating read penned by Mail sports writer Matt Barlow, son of former Blade Frank. Here is a taster. To read the full article click on the link below.
NOT EVERYONE was convinced when Gareth Southgate unveiled his plan to take on the world with a defensive trio including Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker.
Maguire had played in only one competitive international before the World Cup and Walker was a rampaging full back with no experience as a centre half in a back-three.
But in Sheffield, the city where they once forged steel and now produce England defenders, no one questioned Southgate's selection.
'Kyle came in to see me one day and he was down,' said former Sheffield United academy manager Ron Reid as he recalled a turning point early in Walker's career at Bramall Lane. 'He had just finished his scholarship and wasn't quite ready for the first-team and the reserve league was an absolute joke, at the time, with a game every three or four weeks.
'So Kyle had got himself really down, saying, "I might as well pack it in. I'm not getting any games. I'm not going to get in the first-team." It was just Kyle's way of voicing his concerns but, anyway, I went and spoke to the manager.'
Reid presented Kevin Blackwell with a plan to play Walker as one of the two over-age players allowed in the Under 18s — and he wanted him in central defence.
'I'm not sure if Kevin knew who Kyle was at the time,' said Reid. 'But he agreed and we took him and played him at centre half in a back four.