Sheffield United: Clough gets tough over transfers

Mason Bennett is a former England youth international
Mason Bennett is a former England youth international
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Nigel Clough has insisted Sheffield United will not be held to ransom in the transfer market as he decides whether to salvage their move for Derby County’s Kieron Freeman and Mason Bennett, writes James Shield.

The United manager had hoped to unveil Bennett, a former England youth international, as his latest new signing ahead of this afternoon’s visit to York City which marks the end of the League One club’s pre-season preparations.

But after talks with Freeman and his representative hit a stumbling block, Clough could be forced to resume his search for attacking reinforcements having acknowledged the pair come as “a package.”

“The first thing we ask players that we look to bring in is whether they want to play for Sheffield United,” Clough said. “If the answer if ‘yes’ then we can start to talk about finance but what we won’t do is have those discussions the other way around.

“That’s a principle we’ve always adhered to in the past and it’s one we won’t be changing in the future. It’s important that people come here, first and foremost, because they want to represent this club.”

Although Clough, speaking after Thursday’s 2-1 win over Fenerbahce, refused to divulge exactly what has thrown the move for Freeman into doubt, his words suggest United are struggling to agree personal terms with their former loanee. County, meanwhile, are believed to have insisted that Bennett’s loan to Bramall Lane can only be processed if they recoup a fee for Freeman who is surplus to requirements at the iPro Stadium.

Clough, who joined United in October after parting company with the Championship club, handed Bennett his professional debut aged just 15 years old during a match against Middlesbrough three seasons ago.

“We know Mason well. We know his strengths, attributes and character,” Clough said. “And, just as importantly, he knows us.

“Mason is a very talented player with lots of ability. He’s powerful and direct but we’ll have to see what happens and how things work out now.”

United, who play an under-21 fixture at Harrogate Town on Tuesday evening, are expected to include midfielder James Wallace in the team which visits Bootham Crescent today (kick-off 1pm) with Jamie Murphy and Bob Harris expected to return after missing the Fenerbahce match due to slight knocks.

Ben Davies and Ryan Flynn, who usually partners Murphy on the flanks, were deployed as experimental full-backs during the meeting with Ersun Yanal’s team and Clough explained: “If we ever got caught short in that positions then those are the two who would slot in so we wanted to give them some game-time there. That was the thinking behind it.

“We should have a few back for the York match though.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1