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Sheffield United: Blades refuse to give-up on their midfield transfer target

Sheffield United are expected to submit another bid for Ryan Leonard ahead of next month’s transfer window.

Officials at League One club Southend claimed they rejected an offer from Bramall Lane for the midfielder last week and although the exact status of that approach remains the subject of debate, representatives acting on behalf of Chris Wilder’s side hope to begin formal discussions with their counterparts at Roots Hall over the Christmas period.

Leonard, who was the subject of interest from both United and Millwall during the close season, has continued to be monitored by Wilder’s scouts despite failing to engineer a move north before the August deadline.

Back then, Southend’s owner and chairman Ron Martin refused to entertain the prospect of parting company with the 25-year-old. But, with his contract set to expire at the end of the campaign and Phil Brown’s side languishing seven points off the play-off pace, Martin could be forced to sell or risk losing Leonard for nothing.

Previously of Plymouth Argyle, he has yet to sign the new deal Southend tabled after blocking the first of three bids United are believed to have made following their promotion to the Championship.

Wilder, who recently confirmed plans to recruit around “three or four new players” when the window reopens, views Leonard as the ideal candidate to bolster his midfielder after Paul Coutts suffered a serious leg injury during the 3-1 victory over Burton Albion four weeks ago.

With John Fleck set to miss the next three games through suspension, John Lundstram (left) and Chris Basham (right) will be the only experienced central midfielders at Wilder’s disposal until Bolton Wanderers visit South Yorkshire on December 30. Academy graduate Regan Slater, who travelled with the first team squad to Millwall recently, could be tasked with providing cover at Preston North End this weekend.

“There will be in’s and out’s in January,” Wilder said. “Players will come in and, as is the nature of things, some will probably go.

“We know what we want to do and will be doing everything we can possible to make those (transfers) happen. We have a budget and, as always, we’ll try and get the absolute maximum out of that. We’ll try and do the best we can.”

Crucially, given Wilder’s comments earlier this week about the demise of versatile players, Leonard can also operate at centre-half. Unable to compete financially with the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa, the United manager and his coaching staff value individuals who can perform a variety of different roles.

“It’s something that can really help,” Wilder, whose side are sixth in the Championship table, said. “Especially with the numbers that we like to work with, that we think are manageable.”