Sheffield United Digest: Blades step up defensive search after Jack O'Connell blow; Jokanovic says fans returning is "crucial"

Sheffield United will step up their search for defensive reinforcements after Slavisa Jokanovic, the Blades’ new manager, revealed that Jack O’Connell is unlikely to be available for the club’s pre-season programme.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 6:00 am

Forced to miss most of last season having undergone knee surgery in September, O’Connell appeared on course to be declared available for selection this summer before suffering a set-back in his battle to recover from knee surgery.

With manager Slavisa Jokanovic now being informed the 27-year-old is set to miss the entirety of United’s warm-up programme ahead of his first campaign in charge, the Serb has held a series of meetings to discuss the situation - and how it affects his recruitment plans - at the club’s training camp in Spain. READ FULL STORY HERE

Why Jokanovic thinks it is "crucial" that United fans can return to Bramall Lane

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Slavisa Jokanović, the Sheffield United manager, says it is “crucial” for the Blades to play in front of their supporters again after the prime minister gave the green light for fans to return to Bramall Lane when the new season begins next month.

Jokanović officially took charge of United last week, five weeks after being appointed and just before Boris Johnson’s announcement that he expects all social distancing restrictions to be lifted on the delayed ‘Freedom Day’ of July 19.

That has opened the door for fans to return to Bramall Lane in great numbers for the first time since March 2020, when United beat Norwich City to keep up their push for Europe before the Covid-19 pandemic forced football to go behind closed doors.

“It's crucial for us to have fans back in the stadium,” Jokanović, the former Watford and Fulham manager, told The Star. “They give Sheffield United such a push. Me and my players need this kind of support." READ FULL STORY HERE

Slavisa Jokanovic, the new manager of Sheffield United: Darren Staples / Sportimage
Slavisa Jokanovic, the new manager of Sheffield United: Darren Staples / Sportimage

Blades draw up list of alternatives to Bryan

Slavisa Jokanovic has begun drawing up a list of alternatives to Kean Bryan as officials at the club grow frustrated by the defender’s refusal to confirm whether or not he plans to accept their offer of a new contract.

Bryan missed last week’s return to pre-season training after his previous deal expired following the club’s relegation from the Premier League.

After being informed United intended to hand him fresh terms - and later receiving a formal proposal from Bramall Lane’s football administration department - Bryan has yet to provide any indication about his future intentions with Jokanovic recently admitting he is “unsure” about what will happen.

Although he chose to answer in the most diplomatic terms possible when questioned on the subject by journalists last week, the Serb is understood to suspect the delay means Bryan is attempting to reach agreement with a Championship rival before showing his hand. READ FULL STORY HERE

Monty lands new job after setting sights on Blades role one day

Nick Montgomery, the former Sheffield United midfielder, has admitted previously that he would “love” to manage the Blades one day – but for now, his focus is on running his Central Coast Mariners players ragged in pre-season after being named the club’s head coach recently.

Montgomery played for the Mariners, then affiliated with United, between 2o12 and 2017 and he and his family later became Australian citizens. After spells as head of football and working with the Mariners’ academy, Montgomery was last week confirmed as the club’s new A-League head coach, taking the reins from Alen Stajcic.

Describing himself as “proud and honoured” to be appointed head coach, Montgomery added: “I am delighted to have the core of last season’s team already signed. We will look to bring in a few quality players and combine them with our core and youth to gives us a very competitive squad." READ FULL STORY HERE

Slav personally selected his backroom staff

Slavisa Jokanovic personally selected the three members of staff who were appointed to his backroom team yesterday, as the Serb’s regime at Bramall Lane continues to take shape.

As The Star revealed last month, Rafael Cristobal becomes Sheffield United’s new head of first team performance having previously worked with Jokanovic at Fulham. The Spaniard has also held similar roles with Las Palmas, Real Valladolid, Levante and Alaves.

Cristobal has been joined at United’s training camp in Spain by Chema Sanz, the new first team coach, and Italian Marco Cesarini who takes responsibility for the senior squad’s medical services department.

Sources at United have confirmed that Jokanovic, who will make his first appearance as their manager during this weekend’s friendly against Europa Point of Gibraltar, insisted upon their appointments before agreeing to take charge of the Championship club in May. READ FULL STORY HERE

Defender linked to Blades could be O’Connell replacement

Sheffield United have been linked with a move for Brighton and Hove Albion defender Matt Clarke, who has spent the last two seasons on loan at the Blades’ Championship rivals Derby County.

After joining Brighton from Portsmouth in 2019, Clarke has not yet played for the Seagulls – who are well-stocked in the central defensive department – and helped Derby dramatically stay up on the last day of the season, when they drew 3-3 with Sheffield Wednesday at Pride Park to send the Owls down.

Clarke is reportedly a target for the Blades – but who is he, would United get him and where would he fit in? READ FULL STORY HERE

Ex-Blade Bent: Everton should sign Berge this summer

Marcus Bent, the former Sheffield United striker, has urged another of his former clubs Everton to make a move for the Blades’ midfielder Sander Berge this summer.

The Norwegian midfielder is expected to leave Bramall Lane this window although clubs interested in him, including Arsenal, Aston Villa and Napoli, have so far refused to meet United’s £35m valuation of the 23-year-old.

United have so far refused to budge on their valuation of Berge, who became their record signing last January when he signed for £22m from Genk. READ FULL STORY HERE

Lundstram was made big offer to stay a Blade

Sheffield United offered to make John Lundstram one of their highest paid players in an attempt to prevent him leaving Bramall Lane on a free transfer, The Star understands.

After declining several invitations to sign a new contract, including one former manager Chris Wilder described as a “take it or leave it offer” midway through last season, Lundstram was unveiled by Rangers earlier this week having agreed to join the Scottish Premiership champions.

The midfielder, whose departure leaves Wilder’s successor Slavisa Jokanovic with a hole to fill during this summer’s transfer market, insisted the opportunity to work under his boyhood idol Steven Gerrard and play European football were the biggest factors behind his decision to head north of the border. READ FULL STORY HERE