GLASGOW Rangers have postponed plans to let Sheffield United target John Fleck leave Ibrox on loan as an injury crisis threatens to wreck their hopes of retaining the Scottish Premier League title.
With striker Kyle Lafferty expected to be out of action for around five weeks after damaging a hamstring during Monday’s victory over Motherwell, Rangers’ frustrations were compounded when manager Ally McCoist revealed Croatian international Nikica Jelavic missed the game with a groin problem.
McCoist was scheduled to hold crisis talks with owner Craig Whyte yesterday in an effort to try and alleviate the pressure on his team.
With Fleck now one of only two fit forwards at Rangers’ disposal, it appears unlikely the 20-year-old will be allowed to depart until Jelavic is sacrificed to fund reinforcements.
And that, United hope, could see the race for Fleck’s services swing back in their favour after Blackpool appeared to steal a march earlier this week.
“It appears impossible for Rangers to let John leave until these selection issues are resolved,” one source north of the border told The Star last night.
“Ally has little if no money to spend and so the most likely option seems to sell Nikica and then bring in two replacements for less money.
“Either way, John won’t be going anywhere until a solution is found. Loaning him out is very much on the back-burner.”
Danny Wilson, the United manager, views Fleck as the perfect solution to the South Yorkshire club’s goalscoring problems from deep lying areas.
Despite suffering only their first defeat since November when they were beaten by Carlisle, the four midfielders who started Monday’s League One fixture at Brunton Park boast only six goals between them in all competitions this season.
Praising Ched Evans’ prolific form, Wilson nevertheless acknowledged United must not become over-reliant on the Wales marksman during his post-match interview.
Having brokered a deal to sign Fleck and his Rangers colleague Kyle Hutton last year only for the move to be thwarted by red tape, Wilson hopes any continued uncertainty over the Scotland under-21 international’s future could put him back “in the box seat” by persuading Blackpool to pursue other options.
Ian Holloway, Wilson’s counterpart at Bloomfield Road, believes his offer to consider purchasing Fleck next summer, combined with the lure of Championship football, could prove more tempting for McCoist as he wrestles with Ibrox’s threadbare finances.
Rangers are keen, however, to place Hutton at Bramall Lane.
Partick Thistle, who captured Hutton when his proposed move to England fell through, have stated their interest in bringing him back to Firhill Stadium although McCoist feels a spell with United would be more productive.
“If there is the chance to get Kyle to England then that is what Rangers would rather do,” the source said. “He did well at Partick and it’s proved very valuable but a spell in England with a League One club would arguably better serve Kyle’s development.”
Despite vowing to battle Blackpool for Fleck’s signature, Wilson does remain hopeful of orchestrating Billy Clarke’s return to United.
Daniel Bogdanovic and Brett Omerod have already left Bloomfield Road as the Lancastrians press ahead with a revamp of their attacking options.
Contrary to reports, any move for Clarke is not dependent upon United’s Stephen Quinn being allowed to travel in the opposite direction. Blackpool had a bid rejected for the midfielder during the transfer window last year while Clarke impressed during a spell on loan with United earlier this term.
United, who are third in the table, return to action when they host Salisbury City in the FA Cup on Saturday.