After taking an axe to Sheffield United’s first team squad, Chris Wilder faces a major rebuilding exercise this summer.
The new manager released 10 players and transfer listed another seven following his appointment earlier this month with all but one of predecessor Nigel Adkins’ signings either declared surplus to requirements or allowed to leave Bramall Lane.
Ahead of what is set to be a busy close season at the League One club, The Star analyses some of the problems Wilder must address and identifies some potential solutions.
Defence: With Mark Howard among those set for pastures new and George Long yet to officially accept United’s contract offer, Wilder will be in the market for a new goalkeeper although academy prospect Aaron Ramsdale is highly regarded behind the scenes. Adam Smith, who rehabilitated his reputation under Wilder at Northampton Town last season after leaving Leicester City in controversial circumstances, could be a possible option. Likewise his team mate at Sixfields, Ryan Cresswell, as United search for at least two centre-halves. Cresswell started his career at Bramall Lane and also played for Wilder at Halifax Town.
Midfield: A lack of goals, legs and, perhaps most importantly, bite in this area cost United dear during the previous campaign. Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill like to play football but, given the combative nature of the division, will be on the lookout for an enforcer in the Gary Deegan mould. Technicians like Ben Whiteman would certainly enjoy the protection the former Southend man guarantees. Nicky Law, released by Rangers earlier this week, has also been touted by some as a possible acquisition. The 28-year-old progressed through Sheffield United’s youth system before arriving at Ibrox following spells with Rotherham and Motherwell. His emergence, together with Lee Gregory’s impressive form with Millwall, underlines the danger of overlooking the Steelphalt Academy in the search for new talent. Gregory also started his career at Bramall Lane.
Attack: United have no shortage of options going forward with Billy Sharp and Che Adams forming a decent partnership in attack last term while Marc McNulty, bizarrely allowed to finish the season on loan at Portsmouth, also set to return north. The young Scot, like Sharp, is a superb finisher and will benefit from his experiences on the south coast. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who impressed during a spell at Sixfields last term, can make an impact from the bench but a vacancy for a big targetman also exists. One that punches his weight, is capable of bullying defenders and therefore provides some tactical flexibility.
Background: United have signed too many players whose careers have been on a downward curve in recent seasons. This must change. Age is unimportant but attitude is everything. Whoever arrives at Bramall Lane this summer must view joining United as an upward step. New recruits should feel as if they owe United, not the other way around.