James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Interest in Harry inevitable

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It’s irritating, unwanted and can drive you to distraction at times.

In fact, with Wolverhampton Wanderers also expressing an interest in Conor Coady following his impressive spell at Sheffield United on loan, Nigel Clough probably turns puce whenever the word ‘Molineux’ passes his lips.

Personally, though, I’d take their increasingly public courtship of Harry Maguire as a compliment.

Clubs, especially those in receipt of a Premier League parachute payment, are never interested in signing bad players. And, quite clearly, there are not too many of those still on the books at Bramall Lane.

Wolves, who had a second bid for Maguire rejected earlier this week, are expected to return with a third shortly. United will, most likely, knock that one back too which means the uncertainty surrounding the central defender’s future could run and run.

Clough’s decision to explicitly advise Maguire that his career would be best served by remaining in South Yorkshire for at least another season, coupled with managing director Mal Brannigan’s intransigent stance, confirms United want to retain the young defender’s services. Indeed, they are understood to have made an improved contract offer to Maguire and his representative long before Wolves showed their hand.

So, make no mistake, this menage-a-trois has the potential to turn awkward.

The player, who has so far observed a diplomatic silence, will shortly be forced to make his intentions clear. Either by issuing a statement or, as is usually the case, allowing actions to speak louder than words.

The longer the deal United have proposed remains unsigned, then one can only assume Maguire is tempted by the prospect of following his former team mate Kevin McDonald to the Black Country.

The beautiful game is so much more than a business but, in that instance, United would be forced to adopt an entirely business-like approach and look to wring every last penny out of their counterparts in the Midlands.

No criticism is inferred or implied but footballers in general often want it both ways. (Who doesn’t?)

They are happy to bask in the adulation heaped upon them by supporters but then prefer their employers to cop the flak when they are seeking a transfer elsewhere.

Best, in my opinion, to be honest. No one, for a variety of different reasons, should be forced to negotiate in public. But, especially in the Football League where their money really does help to pay salaries, fans deserve to be kept in the loop. Not hoodwinked or treated with duplicitous contempt.

After all, if someone wants to stay then, great. If they want to leave, fair enough. They are well within their rights.

Wolves, who tabled a package worth an immediate £1.2m with a further £300,000 in add-ons over the weekend, are known to be dogged operators. If their pursuit of Maguire drags on then, if past evidence is anything to go by, expect them to be linked with another centre-half shortly. Something similar happened when Roger Johnson joined them from Birmingham City three years ago. Matt Mills suddenly emerged as a target but those chasing the Reading centre-half later discovered they were effectively bidding against themselves. Wolves’ dalliance with Mills was nothing but a smokescreen, probably designed to force City’s hand and beat down the price they were demanding.

Fortunately for United, Brannigan is similarly streetwise.

Speaking hypothetically, would Wolves be the right move for Maguire or is he better-off staying put? For what it’s worth, I think the latter.

Nothing is likely to advance his sporting education faster than actually playing games which, at United, is almost guaranteed following his exemplary conduct on and off the pitch last season.

Wolves’ success - they amassed 103 points en route to the League One title - are a fine club in their own right but that is not necessarily the case at Molineux with Sam Ricketts and potentially Richard Stearman in situ.

Wolves would also, given the fact they are due another £8m payment from the FAPL, be able to outbid United in terms of wages and enjoy Championship status. Perhaps Clough’s squad will too in 12 months time so Maguire could well have a promotion on his CV if he ignores Kenny Jackett’s overtures. If United fail to go up then Maguire, who can definitely play at a higher level, probably should consider his options.

There are, for players who find themselves in this position, so many variables to consider.

Hopefully, Maguire will be wearing a United jersey next term. If not, then I’ve got no doubt a new hero will emerge to take his place. Because that is the nature of football. How it works.

*Twitter: @JamesShield1