Sheffield United: Blades begin search for midfield reinforcements after injury blow

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder admits he is short of specialist midfielders following Paul Coutts' injury
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder admits he is short of specialist midfielders following Paul Coutts' injury

Sheffield United could resurrect their bid for Southend’s Ryan Leonard after Chris Wilder, the Championship club’s manager, confirmed he will look to sign a midfielder when the transfer window reopens in January.

With Paul Coutts set to miss the rest of the season with a fractured tibia, United’s coaching staff have revised their recruitment strategy to include a replacement for the 29-year-old Scot.

John Lundstram has a bright future at Bramall Lane, according to Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

John Lundstram has a bright future at Bramall Lane, according to Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Despite a protracted close-season chase, Bramall Lane’s hierarchy failed to secure Leonard’s release from Roots Hall as Wilder strengthened his squad following last term’s League One triumph.

But, acknowledging that Coutts’ injury has left United short of cover in “a specialist position”, Wilder said: “We need to bring another midfield player in. We were looking to possibly strengthen an area where a player could play a couple of positions, including central midfield.

“But now we are down to two and Samir (Carruthers) has played more as a ‘10’ than a central midfielder. Bash (Chris Basham) can play in there but he’s done outstandingly well at centre-half. So we are down in numbers.”

Wilder’s decision to amend United’s transfer plans suggest he is minded to extend Ben Whiteman’s loan to Doncaster Rovers rather than recall the youngster after the Christmas period.

Southend's Ryan Leonard (right) was a close season target for Sheffield United

Southend's Ryan Leonard (right) was a close season target for Sheffield United

John Lundstram, who deputised for Coutts against Fulham in midweek, has impressed since his summer move from Oxford but Wilder is aware of the possible implications should the former England under-20 international also become unavailable for selection.

Leonard’s contract with Southend expires at the end of the present campaign and, after refusing to accept a new deal, is expected to feature on the short-list of potential targets drawn-up by Wilder, his assistant Alan Knill and head of recruitment Paul Mitchell.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Birmingham City, Wilder added: “We aren’t looking for many changes but it is important we boost the squad. It gives the lads a little lift too.”

Samir Carruthers also has Chris Wilder's full backing: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Samir Carruthers also has Chris Wilder's full backing: Simon Bellis/Sportimage