Teen signs after boss honours stars!

Sheffield United have snapped up one of the EVO-STIK League's upcoming stars at Tadcaster Albion just over a week after Blades boss Chris Wilder handed out the accolades at the 2018 Northern Premier League Player of the Year Awards.

Brewers defender Harry Sheppeard is pictured signing a two year deal at Bramall Lane on Monday, only eight days after Wilder honoured nearly 40 players at the seventh running of the unique annual awards at the Holiday Inn Barnsley on Sunday 15 April.

The speedy full-back has been a regular in the EVO-STIK League North club's U21s for the past two seasons before breaking into the first team in 2018 to make 18 appearances and score one goal.

The Championship club will visit the i2i Stadium in the summer for a friendly as part of their deal for the teenager who will follow in the footsteps of a number of pro graduates to come through the i2i Academy after seeing out the current campaign this weekend.

They include Alfie Beestin to Doncaster Rovers and Romario Vieira and Ronaldo Vieira to Leeds United and Sheppeard thanked the club's coaches for helping him earn his dream move to the Championship giants in a statement on Monday night.

He said: “I am delighted to have signed for Sheffield United and can’t wait to get started. I’d like to give a big thanks to Mikey and Si and everyone involved with i2i because without their coaching for the last three years, I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in now.

"They have helped me develop massively as a player and playing in the i2i Academy for the last two years at York College has been a great experience. I knew I had to work hard and be patient for my chance and take it when it came around. Playing regularly in the second half of the season and holding down my position has been a challenge but has brought me on as a player.”

The teenager added: “The college lads are a top set of lads and it’s been great to share the two years with them and having the success we have had is a huge bonus. I’ve enjoyed being involved all year whether it’s training or playing and the lads welcomed me into the team and made me feel comfortable which helps massively when playing in a new side.”

Academy boss Michael Morton said “We are delighted for Harry, he is a great lad with huge potential. We have a formula here at i2i that is working. We are proud of all our players and look forward to helping many more achieve their ambitions in the game.

"We have been immensely impressed by all at Sheffield United, their scouting system has been first class. It is a perfect fit for Harry, he is joining a fantastic club and they will give him every chance to make it in the game.”

Matthew Gore, CEO of i2i, told fans they were delighted to have helped another aspiring young footballer achieve his dreams of signing for a professional club.

Gore said: “This is exactly how we envisaged the i2i model working, it’s proving that it is successful and we will continue to make it work moving forward. It all started with our head of recruitment Neil Sanderson out on the Knavesmire on an awful Sunday morning watching him play as a youngster. He has progressed all the way up through our system of the academy, college, Tadcaster U21’s to then being noticed playing in the first team.

“Harry fully deserves the move, he has worked incredibly hard over the years. He comes from a great family and will continue to be supported by i2i and everyone around him. This is the start of his journey in the professional game, he has to prove himself all over again and it’s going to require hard work and gritty determination.”

He added: “The move gives us tremendous pleasure as an organisation after Harry was released from York City as a youngster. We helped him progress, develop and stay in the game and it just proves that we have a brilliant pathway for any aspiring footballer.”

The 2018 Northern Premier League Player of the Year Awards attracted a worldwide audience of more than three hundred thousand views on Twitter and over ten thousand more on Facebook as it was streamed live for the second season running.

As guest of honour, 50-year-old Blades boss Wilder followed in the footsteps of World Cup referee Howard Webb at the inaugural awards in 2012, Manchester City and Everton legend Joe Royle, former Wales boss Brian Flynn, Mansfield Town manager Steve Evans, England C manager Paul Fairclough and former Welsh international Dean Saunders last season.

Images courtesy of @TadcasterAlbion/Twitter

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