Chris Wilder is prepared to abandon his pursuit of midfielder Ryan Leonard unless there is a quick breakthrough in negotiations with Southend.
The Sheffield United manager made an approach for Leonard earlier this month but, after growing increasingly exasperated by the progress of those talks, has confirmed he will hold discussions with a number of alternative targets to avoid repeating the mistakes of last summer’s transfer window.
United, who spent weeks chasing both Leonard and Blackburn Rovers defender Darragh Lenihan before being forced to admit defeat, also saw deals for Fleetwood Town’s Devante Cole and Jerome Sinclair of Watford collapse ahead of the cut-off point for new signings.
Despite those set-backs, Wilder has led his team to sixth in the table ahead of tomorrow’s Championship fixture against Bolton Wanderers but said: “We are looking to do our business early, however things change. We identified one player, and I think we have resurrected his career. He is back in their first team and playing well. But we are working extremely hard and hopefully we will have stuff done early on.
“If not, we have potential targets down the list that will hopefully come and want to play in front of 30,000 supporters in this environment. Coming into January, we have to get better players in and up the standard of the squad. Myself, my staff and players will learn from experiences.”
With Leonard believed to be intent on moving to Bramall Lane, the problems United have experienced trying to secure the release of a League One player in the closing stages of his contract illustrate the financial constraints Wilder is working under. However, eight months after securing promotion from League One, their presence in the top six is a tribute to his ability to achieve results on a tight budget.
With United set to face Aston Villa, Norwich City and arch-rivals Sheffield Wednesday next month, the 50-year-old is keen to ensure his latest recruitment drive is completed as early as possible. But, speaking at the Steelphalt Academy yesterday, Wilder revealed he is under personal as well as professional pressure to deliver.
“It’s my wedding anniversary on transfer deadline day so I have been told I have got to get things wrapped up,” he joked. “Last time on transfer deadline day, I was getting married at 3pm and at 1pm I was sorting the Aaron Ramsdale to Bournemouth deal out, which was quite funny. We had a phone call from Bournemouth and I was in a restaurant having a bite to eat. It was like, ‘deal done, bang, now let’s get my suit on.’ So hopefully ins and outs on transfer deadline day this year, it will be a quiet day.”
“The sooner we get players in, integrated into the group, the sooner the better,” he added. “Obviously, we are always dictated to by other things.”