Sheffield United have refuted claims they were caught napping on transfer deadline day, writes James Shield.
Managing director Mal Brannigan leapt to the League One club’s defence after they failed to recruit any of their leading targets before the window for permanent signings closed earlier this week.
Revealing that negotiations with the trio of players Nigel Clough has placed on his wanted-list began “a long, long time before” Monday’s 11pm cut-off point, Brannigan said: “We made contact regarding the first way back in July and the others a few weeks ago.
“Everyone was in place to make sure that we could complete if the opportunity had arisen. All the paperwork and documentation was ready to go.
“These aren’t people the manager and his staff suddenly started to look at on the day itself. Our interest goes back a long, long time before that.”
Despite acquiring eleven new players since the end of last season and renegotiating contracts with other long-serving members of Clough’s squad, United’s perceived inactivity during arguably the most eagerly anticipated date on the footballing calendar has provoked criticism from some quarters.
However, 15 of their divisional rivals also either refused or were unable to push through deals during 24 hours of hysteria, excitement and hype with only four making permanent acquisitions.
Brannigan, confirming “all” of the players United enquired about are contracted to Championship clubs, said: “We put in what we thought we good, material offers and we thought that we would get, or had a good chance of getting, all three. But what we found was that their clubs ultimately just did not want to sell.
“We pushed and pushed but, at around 10pm on Monday, we realised we weren’t going to be able to make any headway no matter how hard we tried.”
Despite refusing to elaborate on the fees United were prepared to pay - “I understand why people ask and it’s a fair question but, from a business perspective, it would make no sense whatsoever for me to answer” - Brannigan added: “The way we worked, and we always try and do our work in the right manner, is to make an offer and then wait for a decision. Give people time to consider things properly and room to breathe.
“Then, if that offer isn’t accepted, we might reconsider our position or try to structure things different in terms of payments and clauses. See if that changes the position of, or makes it easier for, the club concerned which, very often, is the case.”