Sheffield United: Championship leaders' manager doubles down on contracts

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Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, is continuing to distance himself from contract negotiations with some of Bramall Lane’s biggest names after making a series of recommendations about who should be awarded new deals.
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With a huge swathe of the Championship leaders’ squad set to become free agents at the end of the season and others, including Iliman Ndiaye, likely to attract interest from rival clubs despite having more than a year to run on their existing agreements, Heckingbottom has spoken of the need to address the situation before it becomes a distraction.

As The Star first revealed last month, that prompted him to hand a list of names whose talks should be prioritised to United’s hierarchy following September’s transfer deadline, with Ndiaye chief among them.

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Despite being told he could influence all aspects of the team’s footballing operations after being appointed in November, Heckingbottom believes members of the board and others acting on their behalf must now take responsibility for ensuring those discussions reach a satisfactory conclusion.

“I’ve done my bit with the contracts,” he said. “I’ve done what I had to do. There’s others, and other things, I want to keep pushing now.”

Ndiaye, aged 22, is one of the major reasons why United are preparing for Saturday’s game against Blackpool on top of the table. The French born forward, who represents Senegal at international level, has scored five goals in 13 appearances for Heckingbottom’s side so far this term.

Iliman Ndiaye of Sheffield United has made huge progress of late: Nathan Stirk/Getty ImagesIliman Ndiaye of Sheffield United has made huge progress of late: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Iliman Ndiaye of Sheffield United has made huge progress of late: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

If he is selected to represent the Africans at next month’s World Cup in Qatar, it is expected to send his value soaring. Aware of the fact, and keen to prevent speculation overshadowing United’s work over Christmas and New Year, Heckingbottom wants Ndiaye’s achievements of late to be recognised.

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He put pen to paper on fresh terms two summers ago, but only after an initially freight series of discussions led to him being overlooked for senior duty until Heckingbottom’s predecessor Slavisa Jokanovic helped broker a compromise between the player’s representative and a former member of United’s staff.

“I recognise it’s a business,” Heckingbottom said recently. “It’s not my money and so all I’ve done is say what I want to happen with regards to certain people (and their contracts).”