Sheffield United: Chris Wilder reveals the one thing he will not guarantee potential loan signings even if it means they reject moves to Bramall Lane
It will not have gone unnoticed at Bramall Lane, as negotiations aimed at securing Scott Hogan's releasefrom Aston Villa progress at a tortuously slow rate, that Crystal Palace are offering to loan players for free.
Their wages will be paid and other associated costs covered. The only proviso is, the Premier League club insist, those who do leave Selhust Park must feature in every first team match for which they are eligible.
With Connor Wickham among those surplus to Roy Hodgson's requirements, Chris Wilder will be intrigued by the proposition. Especially given Sheffield United's financial constraints. But the scheme is unlikely to
prompt a switch of targets. Because, as Wilder has explained on numerous occasions, he does not want any member of his squad to enjoy preferential treatment or slip into a comfort zone.
"Everybody here gets in on their own merits," the United manager said. "I think that's important, not just for the group as a whole but also for the individuals within in. Fighting for a spot, no matter what stage of your career you are at, is part and parcel of football."
Of course, critics of Wilder's stance will argue United have already entered into a not dissimilar agreement after signing Ben Woodburn. Before sanctioning the Wales international's departure, Liverpool stipulated certain financial penalties would apply if he was left warming the bench or sat in the stands. There is, however, a key difference. United's coaching staff factored these into the costings presented to their board of directors before the deal was sealed. It was a signal, to both Woodburn and his representatives, that he was not guaranteed a place. Meanwhile, although there are bound to be some exceptions, Palace's offer only extends to League One and League Two sides.
"We do our research and decide the players we think are best for us," Wilder, confirming he will not be swayed by names, reputations or past achievements, said. "We don't just pluck them out of thin air or think 'he's done well before.' That's not how it works."
Rather than sift through Palace's roster - other than Wickham, there are no obvious lines of enquiry to pursue - Wilder, his assistant Alan Knill and head of recruitment Paul Mitchell will spend the next two days focusing their efforts on persuading Villa to part company with Hogan. Steve Bruce, whose team visits South Yorkshire this weekend, has recently distanced himself from claims the Republic of Ireland centre-forward can leave the Midlands. Privately, though, United's hierarchy believe he will be allowed to move elsewhere if Villa secure a replacement although a number of alternatives have been lined-up.
"I think, when you take everything into consideration, we are an attractive proposition," Wilder said. "The crowds, the history, the atmosphere inside the stadium and they way we go about things, why would you not want to be a part of that?"