How Chris Wilder's latest cull provides fresh transfer clues
There were no surprises and precious few raised eyebrows when Sheffield United published their latest retained and released list.
Which is testament to both the stability of Chris Wilder’s squad and, after most of its leading names were awarded new contracts last season, the Championship club’s improved planning behind the scenes.
Intriguingly, the announcement confirming two players will definitely depart while another seven have been made available for transfer also provided a clue about where, assuming Wilder’s patience does not snap because of an ownership dispute, United are likely to strengthen this summer.
With Clayton Donaldson being informed he will not be offered a new deal when his short-term agreement expires, attacking reinforcements are expected. Especially as James Hanson and Caolan Lavery, who finished the season on loan elsewhere, have received permission to find other clubs. Chris Hussey’s exit is unlikely to signal the arrival of a new wing-back but, if Jamal Blackman does not return to Bramall Lane from Chelsea, confirmation George Long has also been declared surplus to requirements means two goalkeepers could be needed. Particularly if coaching staff decide Jake Eastwood, another Steelphalt Academy graduate, would benefit from a secondment at a rival team.
Speaking before United finished 10th in the table after beating Bristol City last weekend, Wilder indicated the decision about who to keep and who to cut loose had been relatively easy to make.
“I don’t want to hold a gun to any heads,” he said. “If players who haven’t been involved much decide they need football then I totally understand that. There will be no falling out with me.”
Samir Carruthers probably falls into this category. The same goes for Louis Reed, Ben Heneghan and Nathan Thomas. But the arrival of Lee Evans in January, coupled with Paul Coutts’ imminent recovery from injury, means United still enjoy plenty of depth in midfield. Importantly, clearing the decks here also provides youngster Regan Slater with a route into the starting eleven.
Possibly the only player whose imminent exit will be the subject of debate is Thomas following his promising display during January’s FA Cup tie against Ipswich Town. But midway through last term, it became apparent Wilder’s tactical preferences meant there would be precious few opportunities for a traditional winger. Thomas, however, is unlikely to be short of suitors. The same goes for Carruthers, who is expected to emerge as a target for Oxford, and the other players Wilder has made available for transfer.