Paul Heckingbottom gives Sheffield United young star a glowing report

Sheffield United’s renowned talent development has yielded another promising prospect, with Paul Heckingbottom lauding Oliver Arblaster for his impressive start to the season on loan at League One side Port Vale.

The 19-year-old, who made his Sheffield United debut in the EFL Cup last season under Heckingbottom, has featured in all 16 of Vale’s league matches this season, starting 14 of them.

Arblaster’s breakthrough at Bramall Lane last season, coupled with his strong performances at Vale Park, earned him a call-up to the England Elite League squad (under 20’s). He played the full 90 minutes in the young Three Lions’ 3-2 victory over Germany.

Arblaster’s form has justified the faith placed in him by Heckingbottom and the coaching staff. Sheffield United has the option to recall him from his loan spell in January, offering the possibility to compete for a place in the Premier League.

It’s not just his technical ability: to play any type of pass, to control the ball under pressure, to evade the press – It’s also having the maturity that he has at such a young age. He knows what he can do, and he more often than not chooses the right time to do X, Y and Z.

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 28: Paul Heckingbottom, Manager of Sheffield United, looks dejected as he applauds the fans at full-time following their team’s defeat in the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Sheffield United at Emirates Stadium on October 28, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Paul Heckingbottom on Oli Arblaster 

Heckingbottom reflected on the 19-year-old’s loan spell thus far, via Yorkshire Live:

“He’s doing really well. It was the right thing to do, to send him out, for his development, but he would have got minutes here. Maybe not as many.

“It would have also helped us because he wouldn’t have counted as one of the 25-man squad, because he’s under-age, but I feel it would have been a really selfish decision to keep him in. People know what we think of him, we think he has a real chance and potentially a real big future here.”

He also added: “What we do in January or at the end of the season, we’ll have to wait and see.”

My opinion

Watching him for Sheffield United’s development team you could see he had that X-factor about him, but so many youth players do. The difference is they can’t make that jump from youth level to the senior game. Whereas the real special talents like Arblaster take to it like a duck to water.

There are many options the football club can do with Arblaster, but I don’t think recalling him in January would be a good idea. He’s found a rhythm at Port Vale in League One. Keep him there for the full season and watch him grow into a man in that midfield position.

Then in the summer heavily involve him in the pre-season games and see where it goes from that point. One would hope if the Blades stayed up this season then the midfield would be massively improved next summer thanks to a bit of funding.

But I’ll just say this: if worst case scenario United are in the Championship next season, I would seriously consider giving him a key role in the midfield. And I’d look to have Oliver Norwood mentoring him.

Tags Oli Arblaster