Sheffield United-linked defender close to Championship transfer move with Southampton

England U21 international was linked with Blades earlier in window
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Sheffield United-linked defender Mason Holgate is closing in on a loan move to Championship side Southampton after being made available by his parent club Everton. The former England U21 international worked with Paul Heckingbottom at Barnsley and has praised the influence the Blades chief has had on his career.

With United seeking defensive reinforcements this summer Holgate emerged as a Blades target but a move failed to materialise and he is close to joining the Saints on a season-long loan deal, with no option or obligation to buy. Everton were keen to get Holgate’s wages off their books and after playing only eight times last season, the 26-year-old will be keen to kickstart his career with more gametime this campaign.

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Holgate was also a target of United’s previously, during Chris Wilder’s time in charge, and was once linked with a £30m move to Manchester City on the back of his early performances for Everton after his move from Barnsley. But he made only two starts for Everton under Sean Dyche - in the first he was sent off for two bookings and the second came out of position at left-back against City.

Speculation he would be allowed to move on only intensified when he was left out of Everton’s squad for their pre-season tour. Of his relationship with Heckingbottom, Holgate had previously said: “I have worked with Hecky since under-16s level. It seemed that whenever I went up an age, he did as well. He was a coach in the first team when I was there and I would say he has had the biggest impact on my career.

“I still phone and speak to him now. He watches my games, still gives me advice and tells me what I should be doing. When I was at Barnsley, Hecky and I used to do a lot of one-on-one work to improve my all-round game. We would watch clips together and stay behind to do extra work, all geared towards helping me get to the next level. I thank him for that, and Danny Wilson, who gave me my first-team debut.

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“In lower divisions, it is hard to find a manager that will play young people. He gave me a chance and I took it. He did not have to keep playing me because when I got my opportunity it was only through injuries and suspensions. Once I did well, he kept me in. I was only 17 at that time so for him to keep faith was encouraging.”