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Stefan Scougall has gratefully grasped an early chance to impress at Sheffield United

AS he moves around his hotel room, trying to improve the signal on his mobile phone, Stefan Scougall cannot help but vent his frustration.

Stefan Scougall has shone in the garish yellow of Sheffield United's away strip. Picture: Getty Images
Stefan Scougall has shone in the garish yellow of Sheffield United's away strip. Picture: Getty Images

"We're just trying to sort out the paperwork on a flat," he says, his impatience getting the better of him after the line falls silent again.

Such domestic difficulties are an irritant but, in every other aspect, the 21-year-old's move south has started splendidly.

The playmaker was recruited by Sheffield United in January - he left Livingston in a deal that could eventually be worth £400,000 to the West Lothian club - with a view to being gradually integrated into the Sky Bet League 1 side in the final months of a dreadfully disappointing campaign.

Instead, a rash of injuries and suspensions afforded Scougall an immediate opportunity and the Scotland under-21 internationalist has seized the chance, cementing his place in a team that has won eight consecutive matches to dismiss fears of relegation and also earned an unexpected place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Tomorrow, his revived side face Championship strugglers Charlton Athletic with a place at Wembley the prize. For a player who has yet to appear at Hampden, the prospect is a tantalising one, even if Charlton's replay victory at Hillsborough put an end to hope of an all-Sheffield encounter in the last eight.

"It's a shame we're not getting a derby but it's a good tie, at home, and a chance to get to the semi-finals," says Scougall, who has moved south with girlfriend Sammyjoe. "It's been a crazy start and I couldn't have imagined it a few months ago. But it's been good that it's been so hectic because I've had to come in and hit the ground running and get my mindset right straight away."

And how. Three of Scougall's first five matches were cup games against Fulham and Nottingham Forest and he caught the eye in each in an advanced central midfield role. His only previous exposure to top-tier football had come in ties against Hearts, Motherwell and St Johnstone but he did not look out of place, even if his slight 5ft 7in frame was dwarfed by those of team-mates and opponents alike.

Given that he was released by Hibernian at the age of 16 after being deemed too small, it was initially feared that he might be trampled upon by the giants of the English lower leagues but, aside from his outstanding technical ability, Scougall is a flinty sort and one hardened by playing 70-odd matches for Livingston over the past couple of seasons. "I was a wee guy up in Scotland, too, so I'm used to it," he says. "But there are more bigger boys down here and the game is more frantic; you don't get as much time. I just try to get on the ball and don't let them get close enough to make a tackle."

So far, his technique has allowed him to thrive. Upon his signing at Bramall Lane - Peterborough United and Wolverhampton Wanderers were also said to be interested - he was described by John Collins as having "a touch worthy of the Champions League" and it is the grounding offered to him by the former Scotland internationalist during his short stint as director of football at Livingston that underpins his abilities.

"It benefitted me because one week he'd have me coming deep to try and get on the ball and start play, and others he'd have me further forward to run at defenders," Scougall explains.

"I learned a lot from doing those different things and it's made me confident that I could come down here and fit into a different team, even if I didn't realise just how huge a club this is. We got 25,000 for the Forest game and 18,000 in the league and that is a totally different scale to what I was used to at Livingston but it inspires you to put on a show."

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