Sheffield United have taken a major step forward in their bid to sign Andy Butler, writes James Shield.
The centre-half emerged as one of Nigel Clough’s top transfer targets after announcing earlier this week that he is leaving Walsall.
Butler’s former club Scunthorpe and Doncaster Rovers have also been linked with the 30-year-old but, despite reports to the contrary, The Star understands that he has not held talks with officials from either The Keepmoat Stadium or Glanford Park.
And that leaves United in pole-position to recruit the vastly experienced defender when his contract at the Bescot Stadium expires shortly.
Butler, who still lives in South Yorkshire, is Clough’s preferred choice to further reinforce a rearguard which kept 21 clean sheets in league and cup competition last season.
Harry Maguire, whose partnership with Neill Collins was a driving force behind that achievement, is known to interest Wolverhampton Wanderers although Clough remains hopeful the youngster will agree a new deal.
Dean Smith, the Walsall manager, believes Butler’s decision has been influenced by the strain of commuting to the Midlands.
“At his age it can be hard work when you have young kids and have to come down to train,” Smith said. “I think we have had the best three-and-a-half years out of him. He has been brilliant.”
“Andy was always honest with me from the start,” Smith added. “And at the end of the season he told me that he would have a really tough decision to make.”