Sheffield United devise transfer target test as key traits identified

One of the crucial tests players hoping to join Sheffield United are required to pass has been revealed, as the newly promoted club plots its first moves in the summer transfer market.
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After steering them back into the Premier League following his first full season in charge, manager Paul Heckingbottom wants to strengthen all areas of United’s squad ahead of its top-flight return.

Heckingbottom’s side won 60 percent of its outings in the Championship last term, returning an average possession ratio of 53.6 en route to a second placed finish behind Burnley. But with these figures likely to fall when United face some of the world's richest and most talent-laden teams, coaching staff have devised a series of checks potential new recruits must complete before seeing their names added to Heckingbottom’s wanted list. United recorded a possession percentage of 43.5 when they came ninth in the PL under his predecessor Chris Wilder, having enjoyed one of 51.8 en route to promotion the year before.

Sheffield United's dressing room celebrations after promotion was secured: Simon Bellis / SportimageSheffield United's dressing room celebrations after promotion was secured: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Sheffield United's dressing room celebrations after promotion was secured: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
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“We want to know what people are like under stress, under pressure,” Heckingbottom said. “How they respond in those situations. Obviously, and I think this goes without saying really, we want good players and they’ve got to be of the right standard.

“We want good people too, though. That’s important. Football is easier when things are going well, although it takes a lot of hard work to get into that position to begin with. But what is someone like when they’re not (going well). Do they sulk? Do they get down and miserable about it? Or do they knuckle down and fight? Those, the ones who fight, are the ones that we want.”

Heckingbottom identified a number of possible acquisitions during a meeting with United owner Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in Geneva last month, although fresh lines of enquiry could emerge either when the market becomes busier or the Saudi Arabian secures fresh investment.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Andrew Yates / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

However, Heckingbottom is adamant that United must consider character traits as well as calibre before parting with any of the £20m he has initially been handed to bolster the options at his disposal. It will therefore not have gone unnoticed that one name heavily linked, Wolverhampton Wanderers defender and former United loanee Conor Coady, was trusted by Everton to take part in their final match of the previous PL campaign - a fixture which could have seen them relegated from the PL.

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Manchester City duo Tommy Doyle and James McAtee, who became key members of United’s starting eleven during the second half of last term, were also praised for the determination they showed whilst forcing themselves into Heckingbottom’s plans.

“You don’t always have it easy,” he said. “Football isn’t easy. You have to fight, not only for results but also for your place and that’s what they did.”

Sheffield United's players are ready to fight for results: Simon Bellis / SportimageSheffield United's players are ready to fight for results: Simon Bellis / Sportimage
Sheffield United's players are ready to fight for results: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

“There’s a group here who have shown, all the way through, that they’re willing to do that,” Heckingbottom added. “To fit in (to the dressing room) and the environment we’ve tried to create here, that’s what people have got to be like. You’ve got to buy into that.”