Chris Wilder has described news that four of his most influential players, including captain Billy Sharp, have signed new contracts as “absolutely vital for the future of our club.”
The Sheffield United manager confirmed the centre-forward, together with Chris Basham, Paul Coutts and Kieron Freeman, would be staying at Bramall Lane before last night’s friendly against Chesterfield.
Despite still being active in the transfer market - midfielders Ryan Leonard and Ben Reeves are among the targets being monitored ahead of next month’s Championship opener against Brentford - Wilder said: “Keeping the core of the group that did so well last season together is huge for me.
“People talk about myself and Sharpy being local but these boys also ‘get’ what United is all about.
“They have bought into it totally and give everything for it out there on the pitch.
“So, for me, it’s great news that they’ll be here.
“That they want to be here as well. I think building on what we’ve done is absolutely vital for the future of our club and what we want to do going forward.”
Like Sharp, who scored 30 goals in 49 appearances last season, Basham and Coutts have agreed contracts until 2019 with the League One champions.
Freeman, who started United’s promotion-winning campaign on the transfer list, is now set to remain in South Yorkshire for a further three years.
Wilder’s ability to retain their services is significant given the importance he places on building a tight-knit squad.
Revealing the deals for Sharp, Basham and Coutts all contain options for an additional 12 months, Wilder said: “The lads know I’m loyal but they also know I’m not sentimental.
“So, to get that third year, it’s up to them. There’s a certain number of games, in the second year, which will trigger it. Kieron’s (contract) has just been done differently because that’s how these things often are.”
David Brooks, who had been scheduled to join Chesterfield on loan this summer until being recalled to Bramall Lane, scored the winning goal at the Proact Stadium after Jack O’Connell had cancelled-out Chris O’Grady’s opener for Chesterfield.
“Brooksy can totally be a part of things here next season,” Wilder said.
“If he continues to show what he is doing, definitely. If he tails-off, then we’ve got some great role models in that dressing room who won’t let him. There are no gimmes but, clearly, he’s a talent.”