Sheffield United boss explains Will Osula decision as Derby County's League One rivals eye striker
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The 19-year-old’s stay at Pride Park was terminated earlier this week, with the striker returning to United and training with his teammates ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup clash at Millwall.
Osula is ineligible for that game after playing for the Rams in the cup earlier in the season, and is also suspended after being shown a straight red card in his final appearance for the League One giants against Accrington Stanley.
But he could be handed a part to play in United’s promotion push for the second half of the season, if Heckingbottom is unable to seal a replacement for Reda Khadra - with the Brighton loanee looking set to return the south coast and end his disappointing loan in South Yorkshire.
Asked if Osula’s recall was linked to the ongoing Khadra uncertainty, Heckingbottom responded in the affirmative, adding: “And I wanted him to get more game-time and I wanted to see where he is. Lots of reasons. He may have been recalled regardless, even if Reda played every game for us.
"Will has featured for us in the past and I enjoy working with him. That's not an issue, we've done that. But if Will plays for us before the window shuts, he can't go out again. We want to protect ourselves but also make sure we can keep younger players, if we feel they can't contribute to us, playing games somewhere else.
“Even if we brought someone in he might stay here, he trained great today and we know what he is.
"Playing games is important but I like our environment and what we do with them. The only thing we can't give them is that first team football, unless they really earn it. But for me there's no better place than here.”
If United do decide to sanction Osula’s exit on another temporary switch there is expected to be no shortage of interest from League One sides, with Burton Albion boss Dino Maamria admitting the Brewers would “love” to sign him for the remainder of the season as they look to avoid relegation to League Two.
The Brewers, who have previously worked with Osula’s young Blades teammate Daniel Jebbison on loan, made an approach to sign Osula on loan in the summer before a decision was taken to dispatch him to Pride Park, where he scored five goals in 21 appearances alongside former Blades David McGoldrick and Conor Hourihane.
"We tried to sign him in the summer. We'd love to have him," Burton boss Dino Maamria told BBC Radio Derby of Osula this week.
"He is one of a number of players that we are interested in. He is a good player. I'm sure when they called him back, Sheffield United must have something lined up already. But we are not in control of that."