Sheffield United are planning an in-depth review of their performance during the recent transfer window.
Manager Chris Wilder, who signed 10 new players following the club’s promotion from League One last term, told The Star it could lead to recommendations about how coaching and administrative staff conduct negotiations with their leading targets.
Describing United’s ability to stem the recent flow of talent away from Bramall Lane as a major step forward in the squad’s development, Wilder said: “We’ll compete and we’ll be ambitious. Yes, it is challenging and it has been tough. “We’ll do a thorough overview of what’s happened this summer. We’ll look to see if we can do better and, if we can, we’ll adjust and alter. If we can’t, we’ll carry on doing what we do.”
Despite the arrival of Clayton Donaldson and Ben Heneghan on transfer deadline day, the failure to complete deals for centre-forward’s Jerome Sinclair and Devante Cole was a major source of frustration for Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill. Although there was nothing untoward about the collapse of talks with Cole - Fleetwood Town only suggesting they might accept an offer when it was too late to process - United, and Wilder in particular, have publicly expressed their frustration with the conduct of Sinclair’s agent after agreeing terms with Watford. While relations with Aidy Ward, the 20-year-old’s representative, are likely to remain frosty for some time, Wilder insists he “gets on really well” with the vast majority of his counterparts in the business. Tellingly, when the Watford Observer relayed Wilder’s comments about young players needing to “take control of their own careers”, earlier this week, the overwhelming majority of readers on the Hertfordshire newspaper’s website agreed.
While feelings on United’s latest recruitment drive remain mixed, one area where they undoubtedly did perform was fending-off interest in their own players. In recent seasons, supporters have grown used to seeing key names lured away before realising their potential in South Yorkshire but, after agreeing new contracts with the likes of Billy Sharp, Kieron Freeman and Paul Coutts, Wilder’s theory that waving goodbye to League One would “bring the power back to us” appears to have been borne-out.
“We’ve signed some good players, on loan or permanently,” Wilder said. “We’ve secured the futures of Couttsy and Freeman. We’ve brought John Lundstram in who will be a really good player for us. We’ve brought in George Baldock, who will be a really good player for us.
“But one thing that has been overshadowed, and maybe the biggest thing of the window, is that we’ve got a lot of assets here and we haven’t lost any of them. We look at our group from an asset point of view and, possibly, it’s as a strong as it’s been for a long time.”
“I’ve said all along, I don’t want our best players to leave,” Wilder added. “The ones who have left are ones we have taken decisions on. We’re trying to build it. There will be casualties but we want to keep building. And we’ve kept hold of our big assets.”
Arguably the greatest beneficiary of United’s inability to secure Cole’s release is David Brooks, who won his second Wales under-21 cap against Portugal on Wednesday evening. Despite attracting admiring glances from a number of top-flight sides, Tottenham Hotspur included, since graduating from the Steelphalt Academy, Brooks can fill the vacancy for a quick, direct forward which exists within United’s attack.
“We have to look at it, we have to look at the shape, but he’ll be involved one way or the other,” Wilder, whose team visits Sunderland this weekend, said. “He is close and we understand that. Our performance was good last week so there’s a decision to make. And a difficult one too.”