New Blade Evan is cut above the rest

HOT prospect Evan Horwood is hoping to make an impact on the First Division stage after being snapped up by Sheffield United.

The 16-year-old Hartlepool footballer has signed a three-year contract with the Blades and pulls on his boots at Bramall Lane for the first time today.

The former Hartlepool United and Sunderland schoolboy was chased by two other top-flight clubs but was impressed by the set-up in South Yorkshire and this morning joined his new team-mates for his first training session as a full-time scholar.

He said: "I am looking forward to seeing the other lads and getting settled in. I am staying in digs in Sheffield so I'll find out today who I am living with."

Full-back Evan comes from a background of football with older brother Gareth a former trainee at Hartlepool United, dad Taffy manager of Seaton Boys and brother-in-law to be David Murphy currently breaking through into the Middlesbrough first team.

Murphy, who is engaged to Evan's 18-year-old sister Natasha, started as a schoolboy at Boro before catching the eye of current boss Steve McClaren.

Now Evan, who has just finished his GCSE exams at Brierton School, must look to build his reputation in the junior ranks and make his way to the top amid the tough competition for contracts at the end of his scholarship.

Delighted mam Carol said: "I am proud of all the kids. Evan is pretty strong-willed and gets on with anyone so I can't see him having too many problems staying away from home."

Evan, who lives in Seaton Carew, should not feel too home-sick anyway with the strong Hartlepool connections at United.

Captain and last season's Player of the Year, Michael Brown, is Hartlepool born and bred while first team manager Neil Warnock made 66 appearances in a blue and white shirt in the early 70s.

Evan smiled: "I met Michael Brown when we were invited to have a look around Bramall Lane. He said he will give me a lift home if ever I want one."

Dad Taffy was impressed with the professional attitude of the club and is confident his son can do well.

He said: "They really treated us well and all the directors and coaches made a point of coming over and shaking our hands.

"We had a look round and Evan liked the feel of the place so he signed. He was also wanted by West Ham, Bolton and Darlington but he feels he has made the right choice."

The teenager started his career with junior side St Francis until he joined his home-town club before being lured away to the Stadium of Light.

Taffy added: "He was spotted as a young kid by Billy Horner at Pools and it was him who saw his potential. But then Sunderland came in and he decided to try his luck with them. Now hopefully this will be the start of his career at the next level."