Chris Wilder last night admitted that Sheffield United are prepared to fend-off any hostile bids for their players during the transfer window.
Although Wilder could sign two more players before January 31st’s deadline following the arrival of Samir Carruthers earlier this week, he revealed there is a consensus behind the scenes that too much activity could undermine United’s progress during the first half of the season.
They enter today’s game against Southend on top of the League One table, three points clear of second-placed Bolton Wanderers and boasting a four point cushion over Scunthorpe in fourth.
“I don’t want anybody to go,” Wilder said. “We are early in January, but I am not expecting any bids in.
“We will do our best to decline any offers that come our way. It’s important, we have worked very hard off the pitch to get this team together, in terms of mentality and team spirit, and on the pitch we have worked really hard to get into this position.
“I don’t want anything to change, if I am honest.”
Despite insisting he wants to keep the core of his squad intact, Wilder could allow certain players to depart on loan. Louis Reed, who saw fellow midfielder Ben Whiteman join Mansfield Town on loan last weekend, is being monitored by several clubs interested in recruiting him on a temporary basis. Goalkeeper George Long is another known to boast admirers elsewhere.
“There’s been a couple of telephone calls, regarding George’s availability, but nothing concrete,” Wilder acknowledged. “We’ll see what happens regarding that and how things play out.”
Long, aged 23, signed a new two year contract with United during the close season but has played only once since losing his starting place in August. Wilder recently insisted the former England under-20 international is capable of fighting his way back into the club’s plans but accepts, at this pivotal stage of his career, the player’s development is best served by regular first team football.
United could have a full-strength squad at their disposal for the visit to Roots Hall. Carruthers, previously of MK Dons, is expected to make his debut against Phil Brown’s side although, with Paul Coutts and John Fleck both set to feature, is likely to start on the bench.
Marc McNulty will travel to Essex after being recalled from his loan spell at Bradford City while fellow centre-forward Leon Clarke has made progress in his battle against injury. Clarke suffered a badly swollen ankle following a collision with a Northampton Town defender last weekend and missed Monday’s victory over Bury as a result. But he returned to training on Thursday and will be assessed by United’s medical staff before Wilder finalises his plans.
“We won’t take risks at this stage of the season,” he said. “Maybe you might do that with three or four games remaining but not now. We’ll see how Leon is and, if he’s okay, then he’ll be involved.”
Meanwhile, United yesterday announced they have less than 500 tickets remaining for next weekend’s trip to Walsall.