Sheffield United: Why no more new contracts will be awarded by The Blades this season
Sheffield United are unlikely to enter into any more contract discussions until the end of the season, manager Chris Wilder has confirmed, after Billy Sharp and Enda Stevens agreed new long-term deals.
Sharp, the Championship club's captain, and Stevens, a Republic of Ireland international, put pen to paper on the agreements ahead of Saturday's visit to West Bromwich Albion which pits second against fourth in the table.
Although talks with Jack O'Connell, John Fleck and Kieron Freeman have been mooted in recent months, Wilder told The Star that United will now focus on trying to reach the Premier League rather than holding talks with existing members of his squad. They travel to The Hawthorns a point and two places above Darren Moore's side.
"We'll leave it now until the end of the season and see where we are," Wilder said. "The ownership will be decided by then too. We're settled, the players can get their heads down and we'll assess everything else then."
As Wilder alluded, although their position in the promotion race has influenced the decision to focus purely on football, doubts about who will be running United at the beginning of next term are another factor. Kevin McCabe and HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who both hold 50 per cent stakes in parent company Blades Leisure Limited, are set for a court hearing in May to decide who gains control of United after launching rival takeover bids.
Despite the uncertainty, Wilder has reassured both supporters and the players themselves that he expects O'Connell and Fleck to be invited to the negotiating table this summer.
Sharp, aged 33, and Stevens, five years his junior, are now tied to United until 2021 and 2022 respectively, with the former's contract believed to contain another potential 12 month option.
Acknowledging he views the duo as potential top-flight players, Wilder said: "If, and it's if, we get up then they'll be given opportunities.
"It's important to show to the players that there are rewards out there. If you produce performances, there is a reward.
"It's important we keep improving as a group from my point of view and the club wants to keep its best players."
"There's no sentiment involved," Wilder added. "Billy deserves his reward and the same goes for Enda. They improve the group."