Sheffield United Digest: Blades play hardball with Arsenal, Aston Villa and Napoli over Sander Berge; Pre-season update; John Fleck could get Euro 2020 chance
Sheffield United will report back to pre-season training next week – and as things stand, Sander Berge will be there with the rest of his teammates as the Blades continue to thwart efforts to prise him away from Bramall Lane.
Despite attracting interest from both Arsenal and Napoli, Berge has yet to be the subject of an official bid after being valued at £35m by Bramall Lane’s hierarchy.
Although he is still expected to depart this summer following United’s relegation from the Premier League, the 23-year-old is preparing to rejoin his team mates at the Steelphalt Academy on Monday when preparations for the new campaign will begin in earnest.
Having expressed his desire to play European football again after representing Genk in both the Europa League and the Champions League before moving to England, Berge effectively told United he wanted to leave when they surrendered their top-flight status.
Even before their demotion was confirmed, United had already started to test the market with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur being invited to make offers.
Fleck moves up Scotland pecking order after Gilmour blow
John Fleck’s hopes of making his major tournament debut for Scotland may have increased this morning after Billy Gilmour, the Chelsea midfielder, tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of his country’s crucial Euro 2020 clash with Croatia tomorrow.
The news was confirmed by the Scottish FA today, meaning the 20-year-old will have to self-isolate for 10 days and will miss the Croatia clash at Hampden Park tomorrow night.
"The Scottish FA can confirm that a member of the Scotland national team playing squad, Billy Gilmour has tested positive for Covid-19," the SFA said.
"Having liaised with Public Health England since the positive test was recorded, Billy will now self-isolate for 10 days and therefore miss tomorrow's Uefa EURO 2020 Group D match against Croatia at Hampden."
Six Blades who could enjoy a new lease of life under Slav
With Slavisa Jokanović’s Sheffield United tenure to get officially underway next week, when his contract in Qatar runs out, there is much, understandable, excitement from Blades fans about the Serb’s plans in the transfer market this summer.
Tom Cairney, his former colleague at Fulham, had been mooted as a possible signing before news of his fee emerged, while Ryan Sessegnon and Harvey Elliott, who also shone under Jokanović’s tutelage as youngsters, have also been mentioned.
But Jokanović’s appointment could also help breathe a new lease of life into a number of players already on the Bramall Lane books. The new manager, as The Star revealed recently, already believes he is inheriting a better squad at United than he walked into at Fulham or Watford.
So, we had a look at which members of it could most benefit from the Serb’s leadership…
Blades confirm when Lane hotel will reopen under new name
Sheffield United say they want to make the hotel at Bramall Lane “the leading upscale hotel in the city” of Sheffield after announcing a franchise agreement with Hilton.
The hotel, which was built between the South Stand and Bramall Lane end in 2008, was previously operated by Copthorne before being reunified with the club after the high-profile High Court battle for control of the Blades.
The newly-named DoubleTree by Hilton Sheffield City is expected to welcome guests later in 2021 while leaf hospitality, a leading hotel management company, has won the management contract.
Yusuf Giansiracusa, United’s acting chairman, said: “This is another good day for the club and our fans. We are confident that the DoubleTree by Hilton Sheffield City will fast become the favourite place for Blades to congregate before and after matches.”
Scots should study Lane to decide what to do with Fleck
It is a crushing blow for Scotland and, with John Fleck also testing positive on the eve of the tournament, will see the team’s Covid-19 protocols come under intense scrutiny.
But the news that Billy Gilmour is being forced to isolate for 10 days after contracting the virus represents an opportunity for someone else within the squad to become a hero north of the border by helping Steve Clarke’s side reach the knockout phase of Euro 2020.
And it is one Fleck, the Sheffield United midfielder, will be hoping to take ahead of tonight’s Group D tie with Croatia at Hampden Park.
When Blades will report back for pre-season training
Sheffield United’s players will report back for pre-season training next week, three days before new manager Slavisa Jokanovic officially takes charge.
The Serb’s reign at Bramall Lane is scheduled to begin on July 1, when his contract with Qatari club Al-Gharafa expires.
But those members of the United’s first team squad not on duty at the European Championships are being summoned to the Steelphalt Academy 72 hours earlier, when they will begin working on their fitness ahead of the new Championship campaign after being relegated from the Premier League.
Although preparations for next term will not begin in earnest until Jokanovic’s arrival, the former Yugoslavia and Chelsea midfielder has helped plan large parts of United’s warm-up programme and given his seal of approval to those areas which were designed before his appointment last month.