Sheffield United boss on Man City duo and potential hitch

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has confirmed he wants to bring Tommy Doyle and James McAtee back to Bramall Lane next season, but admitted constraints upon his budget could prevent him from doing so.
Tommy Doyle (left)  and Rhian Brewster celebrate promotion with Sheffield United: Darren Staples / SportimageTommy Doyle (left)  and Rhian Brewster celebrate promotion with Sheffield United: Darren Staples / Sportimage
Tommy Doyle (left) and Rhian Brewster celebrate promotion with Sheffield United: Darren Staples / Sportimage

The midfielders, on loan from Manchester City, could make their final appearances for the South Yorkshire club on Monday when it travels to Birmingham City for the final match of the Championship campaign.

Influential members of the squad Heckingbottom guided to promotion last month, both Doyle and McAtee are understood to be keen on the prospect of returning to United next term if officials at the Etihad Stadium agree.

James McAtee and Tommy Doyle celebrate promotion with Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / SportimageJames McAtee and Tommy Doyle celebrate promotion with Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
James McAtee and Tommy Doyle celebrate promotion with Sheffield United: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
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Premier League rules dictate that at least one would have to be signed on a permanent basis in order for that to happen and, asked if he would be interested in the prospect of arranging deals for the two men, Heckingbottom replied: “I’d like a lot of things but we’ve got to work within what we’ve got.”

A number of top-flight teams, including Aston Villa, Brighton and Hove Albion, AFC Bournemouth and Burnley, have reportedly been monitoring McAtee’s progress with United of late. City have no interest in selling the youngster at this stage of his career. But they do expect Heckingbottom, providing his budget allows, to make an approach for Doyle later this summer. The Star understands that, providing a buy-back clause is inserted into any potential sale, Pep Guardiola’s employers would consider allowing the England under-21 international to move on in order to secure regular game time. However, given the respect he enjoys among City’s coaching staff, they would prefer to broker an arrangement whereby they could eventually re-sign him in the future without entering into a bidding war.

Speaking ahead of the visit to St Andrews, Heckingbottom reminded United’s board of directors that uncertainty about the ownership of the club can not be allowed to delay his recruitment plans with a number of players also approaching the end of their present agreements. They include captain Billy Sharp, Enda Stevens, Oliver Norwood, Oli McBurnie and goalkeeper Wes Foderingham although United insist some of those contracts can be extended should they wish.