Sheffield United will listen to offers from rival clubs interested in signing their players on loan, writes James Shield, despite manager Nigel Clough’s pledge that no member of his squad will be forced to leave Bramall Lane.
And Clough, who also hopes to re-enter the transfer market later this month after the club failed to secure any of its three deadline day targets, insisted that arranging a series of strategic placements could help ensure United’s push for promotion remains on track over the crucial festive period.
“Obviously we only have a limited number of people we can use on matchdays,” Clough said. “But I don’t like to see people just sitting on the bench or, in some cases, in the stands.
“It’s much better for them, and crucially for the group as a whole, if they are getting regular games so, in some instances, that’s something we might look at if a suitable opportunity comes up.
“It’s a long, hard season and you are bound to pick up injuries and unfortunately suspensions along the way. Especially later on in the year when the games start coming thick and fast.
“If they’ve been playing then it means they are going to be in much better shape when we need to get them out there on the pitch. That benefits us and also them because they’re going to be in better shape to stake their claims long-term.”
Although a series of tentative enquiries are thought to have been received before the window for permanent signings closed earlier this month, United refused to entertain the prospect of allowing players to depart on a temporary basis, preferring instead to focus on trying to bolster the options at Clough’s disposal.
Mal Branningan, United’s managing director, subsequently confirmed that “three substantive” bids had been rejected for a “defender, defensive midfielder and forward” with at least one bid expected to be resurrected shortly.
However Clough, who has frequently spoken of the need to provide opportunities for home-grown talent, explained that “going out on loan” can form an “important part” of an academy graduate’s “education.”
Kyle Walker, now of Tottenham Hotspur and England, used a spell with Northampton Town to accelerate his progress at United while goalkeeper George Long, who represented England at the 2013 FIFA under-20 World Cup, recently joined Oxford on a temporary basis until January.
“Going out (on loan) should be viewed as something positive,” Clough said. “Because you can learn so much from actually being involved in competitive situations when the result makes a material difference to the people involved.”
“Take George for example,” Clough continued. “He is an exceptional talent but, at this stage, he’ll benefit so much more from actually playing than he will being on the bench.
“People shouldn’t view it as a criticism or a sign that they’re not good enough. They should view it as being an important part of their learning curve or helping them to be properly prepared for when the call comes.”
Clough, who could shortly consider placing the likes of Otis Khan and Connor Dimaio with League Two clubs, said: “That’s one of the reasons why I’m against the idea of doing away with loans altogether, because I think that, when used correctly, they can serve a really important purpose for all parties concerned.”