Sheffield United: Bramall Lane’s new approach to contract negotiations is laid bare

John Fleck scored a new contract with Sheffield United last month.
John Fleck scored a new contract with Sheffield United last month.
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It sounded like a hostage scene from a gritty gangster flick.

But what Chris Wilder was actually describing is the process by which contracts are now being negotiated at Bramall Lane. A relatively simple procedure which, the Sheffield United manager insisted last night, has improved relations behind the scenes.

“There’s no gun to anybody’s head here,” he said. “If they sign what we offer, great. They are the ones who make the decisions about where their futures.

“Players who have been here previous, if they want to go, I’m not in the business of keeping people here if they don’t want to be. We don’t want prisoners. We don’t want to keep people here against their will. If that’s the case, then it’s down to the business of what you can get.”

Wilder has overhauled United’s operations both on and off the pitch since taking charge 17 months ago. Gone are the complicated and at times unfathomable tactics which, as longer-serving members of his squad privately admit, have contributed to the downfall of previous regimes. The same stripped back approach is now being adopted around the negotiating table too, with Wilder yesterday claiming the long-term deal David Brooks signed on Tuesday does not contain a buy-out clause.

“It’s up to us when we want to start negotiations,” he continued. “They are part of the process but they won’t dictate to us as a club. If they want to leave it to the last six months, it tells me that possibly they don’t want to be here. That’s what you saw happen at Burnley with Andre Gray, where he wanted that but they went out and got the best possible price. If you are a million miles away or a player isn’t prepared to sign, again, that tells you something.”

Chris Wilder only wants to keep happy players: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Chris Wilder only wants to keep happy players: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

United decision to award Brooks fresh terms is in part a response to the youngster’s performances at the beginning of the campaign and recent international call-up by Wales. But, coming less than 12 months after he was handed another improved contract, it underlines Wilder’s desire to secure the futures of his most influential players. Billy Sharp, Chris Basham, Kieron Freeman and Paul Coutts, who returns from suspension against Reading tomorrow, put pen to paper on new agreements during the close season while John Fleck was only 12 months into a three year deal when committed himself to the club until 2022 four weeks ago.

“There will always be players disappointed, I get that,” Wilder said. “But if it becomes a long term thing and you want to play football, I won’t fall out with them. We’ll address that and make it as easy as possible for people to move on. We did that in the summer.

“We want it to be a happy place. It won’t be a holiday camp but it’s got to be a good place where people want to come. Brooksy wanted to be here, Flecky wanted to be here. To a man, the lads who are here want to be here with us, not anywhere else.”

David Brooks followed John Fleck's lead and signed a new deal this week: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

David Brooks followed John Fleck's lead and signed a new deal this week: Simon Bellis/Sportimage