SHEFFIELD United manager Kevin Blackwell has admitted for the first time he expects Matthew Kilgallon to be sold during next month's transfer window after revealing that a host of Premier League clubs have joined Newcastle in the race for the centre-half's signature.
Hull City, Burnley, Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic are all believed to be monitoring Kilgallon's situation at Bramall Lane.
While Blackwell has refused to rule out the possibility of the former England under-21 international honouring his contract, which expires at the end of the season, confirmation that United have drawn up a list of replacements suggests they are convinced he will depart.
"It's looking likely that we are going to lose Killa," Blackwell said.
"Hopefully we'll be able to reinvest the money in a permanent signing.
"There are no developments other than we are aware there is significant interest from the Premier League. Personally I think it is a fait accompli. Don't get me wrong, Killa isn't certain to go, but it will be very difficult to keep him.
"We can't afford to match some of the money that is on offer elsewhere. We're not in a position to do that any more."
Trevor Birch, United's new chief executive, held talks with Kilgallon soon after arriving in South Yorkshire but The Star understands they failed to achieve common ground.
Newcastle remain the 25-year-old's preferred destination but United, who must pay Leeds 20 per cent of any fee above 1 million, could attempt to spark an auction for his services by demanding players in exchange.
Earlier this season Blackwell criticised Kilgallon for allowing himself to be distracted by the uncertainty surrounding his future.
But, speaking ahead of tomorrow's visit to Queens Park Rangers, he added: "Killa's attitude has been excellent.
"He's back on his game now. It's noticeable, and I said to him just focus on playing well.
"The best thing a player can do if they want to win over a crowd, their teammates or want to move is to play well. It's simple."
United held their annual general meeting this morning.
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