Sheffield United are preparing for Tuesday’s FA Cup trip to Reading.
A teenager who spent six months on the books of Atletico Madrid, where he caught the eye of Guti, was called up to train with the Sheffield United first-team on Thursday.
Zak Brunt, a Chesterfield-born attacking midfielder, was pictured by the Blades’ official Twitter account shielding the ball from a pair of first-team stars, George Baldock and Sander Berge.
Zak getting stuck in pic.twitter.com/gzdEFskZCz— Sheffield United (@SheffieldUnited) February 27, 2020
Brunt returned to Sheffield United in 2018 from Matlock Town, around a decade after he trained with the Premier League side for the very first time.
The drive to Bramall Lane and back via Matlock’s Causeway Lane ground is one of roughly 40 miles, and would typically take you around an hour and 20 minutes to complete. But Brunt’s round trip encountered multiple diversions, as outlined within the Michael Calvin book, No Hunger in Paradise.
Those intervening years brought stints at Aston Villa, Manchester United and Manchester City, before he and his father, Glen, flew to Spain in search of a fresh start, having fallen out of love with the English academy system.
Atleti eventually took him on, though Brunt continued to play ‘informally’ with the son of José María Gutiérrez Hernández – commonly known as ‘Guti’, the former Real Madrid and Spain number 10.
Guti’s attempt to arrange a trial with the 13-time champions of Europe failed, however, as Brunt and his father were forced to return home due to FIFA regulations, set up to tackle child trafficking.
Interest from Arsenal and Chelsea followed, but it was Derby County that Brunt eventually joined around the time of his 14th birthday.
Four years on, Brunt is now a regular in the Sheffield United Under-23 team and, with any luck, may be close to a first-team breakthrough, with Tuesday’s FA Cup trip to Reading presenting the Blades boss Chris Wilder with a rare chance to rotate his squad.
And should Brunt’s bow indeed arrive in Berkshire, then all of that early upheaval would, at last, be worthwhile.