Revealed: The grading system behind Sheffield United's list of transfer targets
The list of transfer “recommendations” presented to Sheffield United’s hierarchy as the Premier League club attempts to salvage its season contains only “A Star” names, after manager Chris Wilder and his coaching staff warned any players signed this month must be capable of being parachuted straight into the starting eleven.
After being told United’s business during this month’s window will be limited to loan signings only, Wilder made a new midfielder and left-sided centre-half his top priorities; attributing this term’s run of disappointing results to their weakness in those positions.
Having appeared to admit defeat in the battle to sign Omar Colley from Sampdoria before last weekend’s loss to Crystal Palace, Wilder reiterated his desire to bolster the options at United’s disposal before next Tuesday’s home game against Newcastle - insisting that domestic based talent would not be put-off by their plight at the bottom of the table.
United will begin preparing for that match 12 points adrift of safety after taking only two from their last 17 outings.
Although Wilder provided Bramall Lane’s board of directors with an extensive array of potential targets, one individual with knowledge of the negotiation process has told The Star they were limited to “high calibre” prospects.
“Like most managers wanting to do business, the names get divided up into different categories according to ability, experience and so on,” the source, who is not employed at Bramall Lane but nevertheless has extensive knowledge of where different teams are looking to strengthen, said. “There’s ‘A Star’ ones, those right at the top end, and then those graded as ‘B’ signings. United’s (shopping list) were in the ‘A Star’ grading, because he recognises he needs to bring in people who can make a real and immediate difference.”
Jesse Lingard of Manchester United is known to have attracted interest from United in recent weeks, with agents acting on Wilder’s behalf believed to have held talks with the England international and his representatives about the possibility of a move to South Yorkshire. Ben Davies, the Preston North End defender, also counts Wilder among his army of admirers although, unless officials at Deepdale agree to a ‘loan to buy deal’, Davies could be forced to wait until the summer before leaving Lancashire. Celtic are monitoring his situation closely, while West Ham have also made an approach to Lingard.
United, who face Bristol Rovers in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday, briefed Wilder on the progress of their transfer discussions earlier this week. Marcos Rojo, Lingard’s colleague at Old Trafford, is known to have been suggested as a potential replacement for the injured Jack O’Connell by one United director before October’s deadline. However, concerns about the Argentine’s fitness record eventually prompted them to explore alternatives lines of enquiry - including Davies and Terence Kongolo, who eventually joined Fulham from Huddersfield Town.
Although Wilder refused to discuss Rojo at the time, he told reporters towards the end of last year: “Whoever comes in must be ready to play straight away, because of the importance and the number of games coming up.”