Stefan Scougall has been challenged to ensure that Sheffield United do not rue their decision to part company with Jason Holt, writes James Shield.
United elected not to trigger an agreement, guaranteeing them first option on the former Scotland under-21 international’s services, when his loan from Heart of Midlothian expired earlier this month.
Nigel Clough explained Holt’s departure could provide Redtooth Academy graduates Louis Reed and Dominic Calvert-Lewin with greater exposure next term but also cited Scougall’s presence as a factor behind his compatriot’s exit.
“We’d have loved to have kept Jason,” Clough, the United manager, said. “But probably thought he was just too similar to Stefan Scougall who we have under contract.
“We brought Jason in because Stefan had a few knocks and niggles. To score the amount of goals he did from midfield was really good. Excellent.
“Jason has done brilliantly for us but we just need a different kind of player.”
Holt scored five goals in 17 appearances after arriving from Tynecastle in January. But United’s failure to secure promotion to the Championship - they were beaten in the League One play-off semi-finals by Swindon Town nine days ago - has forced coaching staff to cut their cloth in the transfer market accordingly.
Although Clough told The Star earlier this year that United’s selection process prioritised “ability” over “physique”, his refusal to offer Holt a permanent contract also emphasises their desire to inject more power into midfield ahead of the 2015/16 campaign.
Providing James Wallace can prove his fitness following an injury-plagued debut season at Bramall Lane, the former Everton and Tranmere Rovers youngster will be an almost certain starter while Clough would prefer to deploy Chris Basham, who stands six foot three inches tall, in a more advanced role rather than defence.
“Chris has also done ever so well,” Clough said. “He’s shown what a quality player he is.”