Neil Redfearn’s bleak warning for Sheffield United over club’s part-time status
Sheffield United Women risk losing their best players every year if they remain a part-time club, boss Neil Redfearn has warned.
The Blades, who are one of five semi-professional sides in the 12-team Women’s Championship, have punched above their weight this term and currently sit fifth in the table, just one point behind third-placed Durham with a better goal difference.
Promotion is out of reach with three games to go, but planning for next season is already under way.
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"What we don’t want is a situation like last summer,” said Redfearn, who oversaw a fourth-placed finish in his first campaign in charge.
“It proved difficult because if you get that little bit of success people know you are part-time and you are a target for teams.
"They know they can pay a little bit more.”
The Blades boss previously said he felt the team had been forced to ‘reset’ after losing several key players last summer, including top-scorer Katie Wilkinson.
With contracts generally running year-to-year, talks have begun with some players, including England youth international Lucy Watson, about signing for another 12 months.
Young players will remain central to the club’s plans said Redfearn, who has handed debuts to seven teenagers since taking charge.
A further three youngsters have featured in match-day squads this term, with several others from the club’s youth academy regularly training with the first team.
"We have got a good blend of young players coming through,” he added.
“I like the idea of getting young players around the group when you are developing any environment, it’s key. They want to get on, they are infectious and they push others on and make them better.
"This is another big reason why we need to go full time, then it puts you in a stronger position not to be preyed on by other clubs.
"The long-term plan is to get promoted and go full-time but it’s like the chicken and the egg, as this league develops it’s even more important that you are full time so you can compete.
"It doesn’t guarantee it, but it gives you a better opportunity than if you weren’t.”
Meanwhile, forward Watson has called up to the England under-19s squad for their UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship qualifying matches.
The tournament takes place in the Czech Republic this summer.