CHRIS WILDER has his sights set on two additional strikers, a midfielder and a centre-half before the transfer window closes at the end of August.
The Sheffield United manager hopes that club co-owners Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will release some of the £4.5million cash windfall following the sale of former Blades fullback Kyle Walker to Manchester City.
Born a stones-throw from Bramall Lane and a lifelong United fan, Walker became the world’s most expensive defender after making a £45m move from Tottenham. That figure could rise to £50m, possibly £54m, with performance add-ons.
The Sharow-born England international, a product of United’s academy, was sold to Spurs in the summer of 2009 along with another academy product and right-back Kyle Norton in a double deal now widely reported to have been £9m, although figures quoted in Sheffield at the time were nowhere near that. Under the terms of the Walker agreement, United are entitled to 10 per cent of any sell-on fee.
Some of which would come in handy as Wilder continues his efforts to strengthen his squad with less than three weeks left before the season kicks-off. In a similar arrangement, the Blades benefited from the sale of Sheffield-born former defender Harry Maguire who left Hull City, relegated from the Premier League, in a £15m switch to Leicester City in June.
On top of that Brighton’s promotion the the top flight has triggered a clause in the deal originally netting £1.7m which took United striker Jamie Murphy to the south coast in 2015 entitling his former club to further payment.
“We’ve pulled in money from Jamie Murphy this summer, we’ve pulled in money from Harry Maguire and obviously the big one is Kyle Walker,” said Wilder.
“As always the club will be meeting with the owners and the chief exec and I would like to think that when I ask the question to see if I can release a little bit of those funds to strengthen the team. If that’s not the case then that’s fair enough.
“Obviously we’re going into a competitive league. The business that we’ve done is I feel over the last 12 months has been really good. I keep harking on about the structure and what we’re trying to do in terms of wages, keeping it at a level, and in terms of the transfer fees. Buying young, hungry players than grow for us and become assets. I look round the changing room now and I look round at the players we’ve got in the building, we’ve got a lot of assets and we’d like to bring a few more in.”
Wilder added: “Possibly the only positions we’re properly covered in are the fullback positions. We require a lot of energy in those positions the way we play. We’ve got good competition in midfield but I’d still like to bring maybe another midfield player, maybe another centre-half and maybe another one-stroke-two at the top of the pitch, so there’s still work to be done. We’re also going to use the loan market.”
It would surely be unimaginable that Wilder is to be denied a share of the bonus payments that have fallen into United’s lap as the challenge to establish promotion credibility in the Championship looms large. The five players signed so far, all as ever for ‘undisclosed fees’, have hardly broken the bank.
Of those the most expensive are likely to have been striker Ched Evans who is believed to have earned Chesterfield £500,000. Defender Richard Stearman’s fee from Fulham is described as “substantial” but is unlikely to exceed £750,000 given he was unwanted at Craven Cottage and spent last season on loan at Wolves who initially sold him to the Londoners for £2m almost two years ago. A prudent deal was there to be done for a player whose career was at a crossroads.
Whatever money is made available, Blades fans should not expect any big name signings as Wilder reiterated he wants to maintain an even wage structure to maintain team spirit and keep the club on a sustainable financial path.
“I’ve said all along we have to deal in a different market,” he explained. “We can’t, and that’s not being critical of our football club, we can’t compete with some of the ridiculous wages and fees that are going around.
“When you look around the division and Wolverhampton Wanderers are paying over £10m for a midfield player [Ruben Neves, club record £15m from Porto] and Bristol City are paying £8m for a forward [Famara Diedhiou, club record £5.3m]. There’s some crackers numbers flying about. We have to make sure we stick to our principles and our structure and do it the way that we want to do it at our pace.”
Pressed on progress in the transfer market, Wilder added: “We’re comfortable where we are in terms of the players we’re looking to try and get in and we feel we will do. We’ll strengthen the squad before the start of the season and before the [transfer] window closes. It’s an exciting time to be involved with the football club on and off the pitch.”
Oxford United captain John Lundstram is on United's radar
Reports suggest 23-year-old Oxford United captain John Lundstram is now a target. The Liverpool-born midfielder started his career at Everton but failed to make the grade and was loaned to six clubs, including Doncaster Rovers before finding a permanent home at the Kassam Stadium. He has represented England at Under-17, 18, 19 and 20 levels.
United are believed to have had an improved offer of £500,000 turned down for Southend United’s Ryan Leonard and the 25-year-old midfielder, who rejected a new four-year contract, has now retracted a transfer request to leave Roots Hall. He was omitted from a friendly fixture at the weekend and has made it known that he wants to play in the Championship. Shrimpers boss Phil Brown revealed Leonard had expressed a desire to quit the League One club after turning down the deal to secure his future. Southend chairman Ron Martin said: “Ryan is a good character, player and person who I like a lot but he still has a year left and it’s his obligation to honour that. He isn’t for sale.” Leonard’s refusal to accept the new contract offer, however, still leaves the door open should United decide to up their bid again in a game of cat and mouse.
Wilder had been trying to coax Ricky Holmes, who played under him at Northampton Town, to move to the Lane. But last week the Charlton winger agreed a new three-and-a-half-year contract at League One Valley Parade. “It was a no-brainer,” said Holmes.
Wolves recently turned down United’s offer of another loan deal for centre-half Ethan Ebanks-Landell who signed a new three-and-a-half year contract with his parent club in January under Paul Lambert whilst playing an integral role in United’s promotion campaign. It is believed that Nuno Espírito Santo, Lambert’s replacement after being sacked, wasn’t happy at the prospect of the 24-year-old returning to Bramall Lane as United are now a Championship rival.
Ebanks-Landell has instead been farmed back out to the third tier with MK Dons but interestingly Wolves decided against resigning loanee Stearman which helped trigger United’s move for the player who impressed on his debut in a 1-0 win against Malaga in Spain.