Danny Higginbotham could be set to remain with Sheffield United next season despite continued uncertainty about his future at Bramall Lane.
Higginbotham signed a short-term contract after leaving Stoke City during the January transfer window but this newspaper understands it contained a clause which could tie him to the club for a further 12 months.
Given his recent comments to a national radio station, it is expected to be triggered at the defender’s request.
Higginbotham told Talksport: “I’m looking forward to pre-season. Even though it’s always hard work.
“Sheffield United is a massive club and after a huge disappointment at the end of the campaign we’re determined to bounce back.”
Higginbotham, aged 34, was referring to last month’s League One play-off semi-final defeat which condemned United to spending another year in the third tier of English competition.
Despite contemplating the possibility of delaying the official unveiling of a new manager until early next week, United have already begun preparing the ground for Danny Wilson’s replacement by allowing Barry Robson to pen a pre-contract agreement with Aberdeen.
Centre-forward Dave Kitson is also expected to leave United’s first team squad after previously admitting his services would “presumably not be required” unless promotion was assured.
Having emerged as their leading goalscorer following Nick Blackman’s move to Reading, that means United will look to bolster their attacking options as soon as Wilson’s replacement is installed.
Higginbotham made 18 appearances after being recruited by the former Northern Ireland international ahead of the local derby with Doncaster Rovers.
In a squad now expected to be supplemented by members of United’s Redtooth academy rather than expensive purchases from the transfer market, his experience could prove crucial when Wilson’s successor attempts to plot a course out of the division next term.
Joe Ironside, Callum McFadzean and Elliott Whitehouse have all been earmarked for prominent roles after impressing under Chris Morgan’s tutelage en route to the end of season double header with Yeovil Town while Diego De Girolamo forced himself into the Italy under-18 side before suffering a serious injury.