Chris Wilder has insisted he will not compromise Sheffield United’s attempts to establish a sensible pay structure behind the scenes as the League One club prepares for a decisive round of talks with goalkeeper George Long.
Wilder, who took charge of United last month, is scheduled to meet with Long and his representatives tomorrow after confirming he wants the former England youth international to remain at Bramall Lane next season.
But, having reassured United’s owners that he plans to deliver value for money in the transfer market, Wilder told The Star he is not prepared to negotiate the basic terms and conditions Long has been offered after his previous contract expired.
“George is coming back in on Thursday,” Wilder said. “He’s been offered a contract and so he’s got a decision to make. The ball is in his court. I feel the club have offered him a competitive contract in line with our pay structure and where his career is at the moment. So it’s over to him and his agent.”
Although discussions with Long have been cordial - the player expressed a desire to stay put earlier this year - Wilder’s stance marks the first phase of his battle to wrestle back control of United’s wage bill. After commissioning a review of their recruitment strategy following his appointment on May 12, Wilder is thought to believe United have ceded too much power to their employees when it comes to dictating salary costs. Hence his recent statement that: “We don’t want people coming here for the money, we want them to be here for the right reasons instead.”
“I’m not going to stick a gun to George’s head if he declines it,” Wilder added. “If he takes it, then great. He’ll be working with us in pre-season.”
Long, aged 22, emerged as United’s preferred choice between the posts last term and appeared poised to sign a new agreement during the closing stages of Nigel Adkins’ 11 month reign. But Adkins’ departure, and Wilder’s subsequent appointment, complicated the negotiation process.
With Mark Howard among 10 players released earlier this summer, United had been linked with a move for Adam Smith who impressed under Wilder at Northampton Town. The former Leicester City youngster could still emerge as a target if Long performs a u-turn and leaves South Yorkshire. Should he stay, however, Wilder will consider naming Aaron Ramsdale as Long’s deputy after taking advice from staff at the Steelphalt Academy and United’s goalkeeping coach Darren Ward.
Ramsdale was a member of the under-21 squad which reached the Professional Development League Two play-off final last term and is known to boast a number of admirers elsewhere in the game.
“We’re all working hard to get this right,” Wilder said. “And there’s a lot of work to do but we’ll get there with the right characters and the right people in place.”