Jumping ship? Sheffield United don't fear mass exodus despite relegation from the Premier League

Paul Heckingbottom, Sheffield United’s caretaker manager, says he does not fear a mass exodus following the club’s relegation from the Premier League because the majority of Bramall Lane’s most sought-after players remain under contract.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 4:50 am

Although some departures are inevitable following a wretched campaign, which has seen them lose both Chris Wilder’s services and their top-flight status, Heckingbottom reminded that United remain in control of their own destiny this summer after tying their star performers down to long-term deals.

After stressing there is no pressure to sell Norway midfielder Sander Berge despite interest from the likes of Arsenal and Aston Villa, Heckingbottom said: “If people are employed here, if they are under contract which the vast majority of these lads are, then it’s the club which decides what happens.

“If we want players to stay, and we think that’s the right thing to do, then they’ll stay. I think Chris spoke a lot about the importance of bringing the power back to the football club, and the importance of that being the case. That’s what’s happened.”

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Paul Heckingbottom temporary manager of Sheffield Utd with his assistant Jason Tindall: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

“If the club decides it’s best for someone to go, then it can make that call,” Heckingbottom added. “The important thing is that, by and large, it will be the club who can make that call rather than getting backed into a corner. If you are under contract then you are under contract. It’s that simple.”

Despite recently insisting he expects Berge to help United try and plot a course out of the Championship following two years at the highest level, Heckingbottom and other officials privately accept the 23-year-old is likely to move on. Signed for £22m from Genk midway through last term, United believe Berge could command upwards of £35m on the open market now.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s game against Everton, Heckingbottom said: “Obviously what’s happened is hugely disappointing. But for me, the group should stay together.”

Heckingbottom has been in interim charge since March, when it was announced Wilder was leaving United after nearly five years at the helm.

Slavisa Jokanovic, previously of Fulham and Watford, has been invited to discuss the vacancy while United are known to be admirers of Alexander Blessin, the Oostende head coach, despite concerns he is not eligible for a work permit.