Sheffield United’s delegation to the Football League’s summer conference will depart for Portugal tomorrow hoping to have completed the final round of interviews with candidates vying to fill the managerial vacancy at Bramall Lane.
Representatives of the competition’s 72 clubs are set to descend upon the Tivoli Marina Hotel, Vilamoura, for the annual event which is customarily used to discuss and rubber-stamp key changes to the English game.
However, those journeying to the Algarve from Bramall Lane are likely to have more than the imminent arrival of a new chief executive at FL HQ and the impact of financial fair play legislation on their minds.
In the absence of an official announcement about the identity of Danny Wilson’s successor, United’s hierarchy will also use the trip to apply the finishing touches to a process which, after 55 days of deliberation, is now drawing to a close.
Having held face to face talks with numerous potential targets, including the FA’s former head of elite development Gareth Southgate and Motherwell’s Stuart McCall, the names on the South Yorkshire club’s short-list were last night believed to have been whittled down to four.
Robert Page and Chris Morgan, who took charge on an interim basis when Wilson was relieved of his duties in April, secured their places with impressive presentations to United’s selection panel while Michael Appleton, previously of Portsmouth, Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers, thrust himself into the mix last week.
Appleton, aged 37, is believed to have held talks about the position after lodging an application following McCall’s decision to withdraw from the process.
Kenny Jackett, now of Wolverhampton Wanderers, also met with United before being installed at Molineux. However, by that time, they had already resolved not to pursue their interest in the 51-year-old.
Wilson was sacked with five matches of the regular season remaining having watched his side beaten at home by Crawley Town.
Morgan, who oversaw United’s progress into the League One play-off semi-finals, remains the only person to publicly express his desire to claim the role.
Page was promoted to Port Vale’s backroom staff after impressing at youth level.