Sheffield United: Blades boss puts contract talks on hold

Stefan Scougall wants to stay at Bramall Lane next season. Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Stefan Scougall wants to stay at Bramall Lane next season. Pic Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Chris Wilder last night revealed Sheffield United do not plan to hold contract talks with any of their players until after next month’s transfer window.

The decision, which affects the likes of Stefan Scougall and Mark McNulty, has been taken to avoid any unwanted distractions during a critical phase of the League One campaign.

Wilder, who is targeting “one or two” additions, insisted it will have no bearing on the futures of those squad members set to trigger 12 month clauses in their present deals.

“Going into the window and during it, we want to concentrate completely on that,” he said. “In terms of talking to the lads whose contracts are going to be up at the end of the season, we can do that afterwards. There’s nothing to read into it. We just want to keep our heads clear. It’s a subject we can approach when the window closes.”

Paul Coutts, Chris Basham and captain Billy Sharp are among those set to receive fresh terms after fulfilling their appearance quotes this term.

“Those will happen regardless,” Wilder, the United manager, added. “Those are already written in (to contracts) and will automatically be activated. We don’t have to sit down, plan meetings and such like for those.”

Scougall, a former Scotland under-21 international, has made no secret of his desire to remain with United after enjoying a dramatic upturn in fortunes following Wilder’s appointment in May. Having been loaned-out to Fleetwood Town last season, the midfielder’s future looked bleak under Nigel Adkins. But, when the former Scunthorpe and Southampton chief was sacked, Scougall returned to the fold and last month insisted “the change of manager has done me the world of good.”

Wilder, who reciprocated by praising the 24-year-old’s attitude and work ethic, expects Scougall to be passed fit for the Boxing Day fixture against Oldham Athletic after missing last week’s win over Coventry City with a hamstring problem. James Wilson could also feature after emerging unscathed from Monday’s Professional Development League fixture with Nottingham Forest. The centre-half has been struggling with an ankle complaint.

“Stefan is set to come back into training which is good news,” Wilder, whose side are second in the table, said. “So, fingers crossed, he should be okay. James also came through his latest run-out fine and so that’s another boost because he’s been missing for a while.”

McNulty is on a season long loan with Bradford City. Like Scougall, he joined United from Livingston and scored 13 times in 43 appearances during his first full season in South Yorkshire.

Although Wilder could terminate McNulty’s agreement at Valley Parade next month, he seems likely to spend the rest of the campaign with Stuart McCall’s side.