Sheffield United: Blades begin remodelling their squad

Mark Howard impressed for Sheffield United last season
Mark Howard impressed for Sheffield United last season
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Sheffield United have begun the process of reshaping their first-team squad ahead of the new League One season after it was confirmed that Matt Hill, the former Blackpool and Barnsley defender, is leaving Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.

Manager Nigel Clough told Hill, who made his 95th and final appearance for the South Yorkshire club against Coventry City last weekend, that he would not be offered a new contract this summer following the 2-1 victory over Steven Pressley’s side.

The Star understands that talks with other players whose deals expire shortly are on-going although United do not have to publish their released and retained list until next week.

Goalkeeper Mark Howard and centre-forward Chris Porter are among those ‘under option’, which means their services can be retained for at least another 12 months.

“We’ve got some tough choices to make,” Clough said. “Because we’ve got an excellent group here.”

“The players concerned will be the first ones to know what we are doing,” the former England international, speaking earlier this month, added. “That’s the right and proper thing to do regardless of what our decision is.”

Howard is almost certain to remain a United player after impressing since being recalled to the starting eleven at Fulham three months ago. With George Long, who travelled to the FIFA under-20 World Cup with England last summer also proving his worth, Clough indicated recently that one of his goalkeeper’s is likely to leave on loan ahead of the 2014/15 campaign.

“Perhaps more than any other position, goalkeepers know their opportunities are limited unless they actually start a match,” Clough explained. “They’re both good players and so, because you always have a recall on them, we think it’s best for them and ourselves if they’re playing regularly.

“We will make a decision on which one, Mark or George, will start next season but we still want them both to be sharp and ready to play for us which means getting regular football and minutes under their belt.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1