Sheffield United: Chris Wilder suggests an end to contract talks with star trio is in sight before making an admission about the future
Sheffield United hope to conclude contract talks with Jack O'Connell, Enda Stevens and captain Billy Sharp within the next "seven to 10 days", manager Chris Wilder has revealed.
The trio have spent the past month locked in talks with the Championship club after Wilder, who recently sanctioned a long-term deal for David McGoldrick, declared them as being integral to its future.
With the transfer window closing earlier this week, officials at Bramall Lane are now expected to focus their attention on reaching agreement with both the players and their representative.
Wilder, who acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding United's ownership means it is impossible to say if new signings Scott Hogan, Kieran Dowell and Gary Madine will remain in South Yorkshire beyond the end of the campaign, said: "Hopefully, in the next seven to 10 days, those three lads will get sorted.
"Billy does what Billy does - score goals - and we know how effective Jack is at the other end of the pitch. We know the quality he brings as well.
"Enda, I'd be very surprised if he doesn't go on to become a regular international. He's already in the Republic of Ireland set-up now."
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game against Bolton Wanderers, Wilder continued: "I'd be very surprised of there was a breakdown. I think all of them will appreciate it's been a busy couple of days but now we can turn to this."
Hogan, who completed his temporary move from Aston Villa yesterday morning, is expected to make his debut against Phil Parkinson's side. Fellow loanees Dowell and Madine made their first league starts for third-placed United last weekend.
With HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Kevin McCabe scheduled to attend a court hearing in May, when it will be decided which of them gains sole control of United, Wilder conceded he has not yet explored what happens when those agreements expire.
But, striking a conciliatory tone, he thanked the board for "being on the same page as me" regarding the need to retain the services of United's most influential performers. An approach from West Ham, aimed at luring midfielder John Fleck to London, was rejected earlier this week. O’Connell was the subject of interest from Brighton and Hove Albion last summer, when United also turned down a bid.
"They're not 'views to permanents' at the moment," Wilder said. "Short-term, everyone knows with what's going on, that the club is on hold medium to long-term. I'm not speaking out of turn when I say that."
"When I look at what we've done across the window, I think we've been able to do some really good business," he added. "I think we've been able to maximise what we've got and, when you look at what other people have done, as we all do, it's right up there in my book."