SHEFFIELD United will hold further talks with James Beattie aimed at deciding whether the former England international has a future at Bramall Lane after tomorrow’s FA Cup tie with Salisbury City, manager Danny Wilson has confirmed.
Despite refusing to rule out the possibility of Beattie starting the third-round tie - “There’s definitely potential for that” - Wilson insisted it is still by no means certain the striker will remain with the League One club beyond the terms of his short-term contract.
“As I’ve maintained all along, a fit James Beattie will be as good as anything in this division,” said Wilson. “If not better.
“But we must also recognise that the game moves on with regards to speed and pace.
“We won’t know exactly what James can do until he plays some games and that’s what we’re hoping he will do.
“We’ll sit down and talk things through with him.But I don’t think there’s a deadline. James has never set down a deadline.”
Nevertheless, United are unlikely to leave Beattie’s situation unresolved for too long as they prepare for a crucial period of their season both on and off the pitch.
The 33-year-old, who has made three appearances since returning to South Yorkshire in November, is scheduled to become a free agent midway through this month.
In normal circumstances, the huge level of support Beattie commands on the terraces means United would almost certainly offer him a new contract.
However, with money no longer in plentiful supply and Wilson acknowledging “more goals” are his priority during the transfer window, ever single penny must be spent wisely.
Although United have refused to shed any light on the course negotiations with Beattie are likely to take, a ‘pay as you play’ deal could be one possible solution if doubts about his conditioning still remain.
“We’ll be entirely honest with James,” Wilson said.
“The one thing I don’t want him doing is just hanging around because he’s better than that. He’s worth more.
“And vice versa, we’d expect him to be completely honest with us if he had other things on the table.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him and, I have to say, his attitude and application have been absolutely superb.”
Wilson could use the visit of Conference South side Salisbury to gauge Beattie’s fitness levels.
“I’m not going to give too much away but there’s the potential for him to do that,” Wilson said.
“We’ll assess what’s best for the team because decisions must always be made with the interests of the group in mind rather than any one individual.
“Whatever team we put out will be a strong one because we want to go through.
“We want to win the tie.
“No one should be in any doubt whatsoever about that and we’ll give Salisbury the utmost respect because they deserve it.
“For any team from their level to reach this stage of the competition really does take some doing.”