Kilgallon delay a boost for Blades

SAM Ellis was never backward in coming forward as a player and does things no differently since becoming an assistant manager.

The sound of his bark echoing across the vast expanse of Shirecliffe is familiar to anyone who regular visits Sheffield United's training complex.

So when Kevin Blackwell's number two declares himself delighted with Matthew Kilgallon's attitude and application despite continued speculation linking him with a move away from Bramall Lane, you can take it as read that is the situation.

No double-speak, smokescreens or ulterior motives.

Just good old plain-speaking straight from the heart.

"Killa's been first class," Ellis declared yesterday.

"At this point in time he seems more than happy here.

"Well, he's certainly acting like it.

"That's good to see and it suits us right down to the ground."

To confirm the point, Kilgallon has announced his availability for tomorrow's Championship fixture against Middlesbrough, a match which comes less than 72 hours after the centre-half rejected the opportunity to discuss terms with Premiership Burnley.

The Lancastrians, who earlier this week appointed former Sheffield Wednesday manager Brian Laws as Owen Coyle's successor, count themselves among a small army of clubs ready to test the veracity of Kilgallon's claim that, despite failing to agree a new deal, he is happy to honour the remainder of a contract which expires at the end of the season.

United have drawn a veil of secrecy over their role in a saga which, barely a fortnight ago, deemed destined to end with the 26-year-old departing for the North-East until news of Everton's interest prompted a change of heart.

Sources close to the regime at Turf Moor indicate they were granted permission to meet with the defender by their counterparts in South Yorkshire but his subsequent refusal reflects the fact that, given the precarious nature of the situation, Kilgallon and his agent hold all the cards.

It is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty how the transfer window will unfold but while Laws's offer – understood to be around 1.75m – represented a larger sum that United could ordinarily expect in such circumstances, the continued presence of a centre-half, whose partnership with Chris Morgan has few equals in the division, appears to be far more valuable at this stage than any financial concerns.

United, who kick-off the game eighth in the table, just two points behind the top six, know its result could exert huge influence over their fortunes between now and May.

"We're finally getting people back," said Ellis, who also revealed efforts are being made behind the scenes to strengthen Blackwell's squad before the forthcoming transfer deadline.

"That's a good thing because we've had a lot of lads out but we're at that stage now when nobody wants to be missing out.

"Our performances of late have been good but we know there are areas where we can improve and we've been working on those."

United return to action following Tuesday's 3-2 victory over Queens Park Rangers in an epic third round replay.

The tie not only set-up an intriguing meeting with Bolton Wanderers next weekend but also served to highlight the fitness of Darius Henderson and Kyle Walker who, like Kilgallon, have both been struggling with injuries of late.

"They should be OK," Ellis said. "Jamie Ward's hamstrings are a little bit tight and so are Lee Williamson's but they should be all right too."

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