Sheffield United: Chase for midfield target Ryan Leonard is fast approaching a crossroads

Chris Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill (right) have a decision to make
Chris Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill (right) have a decision to make

Sheffield United must decide whether to continue their pursuit of Ryan Leonard or focus on alternative targets instead as Chris Wilder attempts to bolster his midfield options.

Officials at Bramall Lane were scheduled to discuss the situation last night after Southend, who rejected three bids for the 25-year-old during the close season, turned down a fresh offer reportedly worth £700,000 earlier this week.

Ryan Leonard was keen on joining Sheffield United last summer

Ryan Leonard was keen on joining Sheffield United last summer

Ron Martin, the League One club’s owner and chairman, has so far refused to consider selling its prized asset. But, with the player’s contract set to expire this summer, is braced for another battle to retain his services.

With Wilder keen to avoid being drawn into another protracted and ultimately fruitless round of negotiations, the timing of United’s latest approach is significant. Although Leonard submitted and subsequently withdrew a transfer request when Wilder’s interest first became known, United are also exploring a number of other potential leads after Paul Coutts was ruled-out for the rest of the campaign with a serious leg injury.

Nevertheless, with Leonard previously signalling his desire to hold talks and Southend currently ninth in the table, United could leave their latest bid on the table to force the situation should Phil Brown’s side fail to make up ground over the Christmas period.

Speaking ahead of Friday’s game against Bristol City, Wilder outlined plans to sign “three or four new faces” when the window reopens next month as he looks to steer his fourth-placed team back into the Championship’s automatic promotion positions.

Southend United boss Phil Brown wants to keep Ryan Leonard

Southend United boss Phil Brown wants to keep Ryan Leonard

City, who are third, could be without Jamie Paterson (hamstring) at Bramall Lane.

Chris Wilder is an admirer of Ryan Leonard: Robin Parker/Sportimage

Chris Wilder is an admirer of Ryan Leonard: Robin Parker/Sportimage