Despite the uncertainty surrounding David Brooks’ future following a remarkable breakthrough season at Bramall Lane, manager Chris Wilder is convinced all of Sheffield United’s most valuable players are committed to the Championship club.
The value of Wilder’s squad has soared following last season’s top six challenge, with many of its members now worth more than £1m despite being signed on free transfers or for relatively modest fees.
But, speaking as he prepares to begin his latest recruitment drive, the 50-year-old has sought to quash fears United’s burgeoning reputation makes them vulnerable to top-flight predators.
“We have got a team of players who do see their futures here,” he said. “Their stock has gone up and it will continue to go up if they keep producing performances like last year. But we’re talking about lads who want to develop their careers with us, who can see what we want to do, where we’re aiming for and who want to be a part of it.”
While the likes of John Fleck and Jack O’Connell have enjoyed relatively low key summers, Brooks is the subject of intense speculation after emerging as a target for AFC Bournemouth. Although he would cost upwards of £15m, around three times as much as his two team mates, a combination of potential and age makes him an attractive proposition for most top-flight sides.
Brooks, still a month shy of his 21st birthday, burst onto the scene with a man-of-the-match display against Sheffield Wednesday in September and scored his first senior United goal at Leeds just over four weeks later. Although the decision to change his agent - the Wales international is now a stablemate of Wilfried Zaha, Jamaal Lascelles and Harry Kane - has inevitably provoked a degree of alarm behind the scenes, Wilder and his staff are understood to have no concerns about Brooks’ attitude or professionalism should be remain in situ when the new campaign gets underway.
“If you look at our assets, we got Fleck on a free,” Wilder continued. “What’s he worth? What are players like Jack O’Connell and David Brooks worth now? It shows, by being here with us, you can progress and make something or yourself. Because, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve shown this is a club moving in the right direction.”
Crucially, United have protected their investment by handing Brooks a contract until 2021. Others, including Fleck and O’Connell, are also tied to long-term deals.
“Doing things like that brings the power back from other teams to us,” Wilder added. “But it also shows the players what we think.”