Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder is set for a crucial transfer briefing as he chases two new signings

Chris Wilder is waiting to discover if Sheffield United will make an early breakthrough in the transfer market, after leaving the Premier League club’s hierarchy to negotiate with the list of targets he presented them with before this month’s window.

Monday, 4th January 2021, 6:00 am

After emphasising the importance of signing two new players even before injury, illness and suspension forced him to name a shorthanded squad for Saturday’s match at Crystal Palace, Wilder had hoped to begin working with at least one at the Steelphalt Academy training complex this week.

Despite acknowledging that recruiting high-calibre players in January is fraught with difficulty, the 53-year-old is known to have been monitoring both Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard and Sampdoria defender Omar Colley, while his interest in centre-half Ben Davies could also be resurrected if Preston North End decide to sell the centre-half.

Asked if he is directly involved in talks with potential acquisitions or if members of the board have taken charge of the process, Wilder told The Star: “Transfers, I’m just waiting. Yes.”

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Antwoine Hackford takes a shot on goal after making his debut for Sheffield United at Crystal Palace: Paul Terry/Sportimage

After admitting footballers based overseas could be reluctant to join a team which remains without a win this season and is languishing at the bottom of the table, reports that North End now concede Davies will not extend his contract at Deepdale could persuade United to investigate the possibility of brokering a ‘loan to buy’ arrangement. Davies was one of Wilder’s preferred picks to provide cover and competition for Jack O’Connell, when the defender underwent knee surgery towards the end of last year. Although United were unable to progress negotiations at that time, with North End valuing their prized asset at around £10m, the fee Davies would command is likely to have fallen significantly since then as officials in Lancashire look to recoup some of their investment.

Wilder has been told United will only pursue loan deals ahead of the February 1 deadline. However they could attempt to capture Davies by making a commitment to pay North End and predetermined sum when he becomes a free agent this summer. Celtic are also keen on Davies, while West Ham have made representations to Lingard’s agent in recent weeks.

Wilder was only able to name six substitutes for the visit to Selhurst Park, where first-half goals from Jeffrey Schlupp and Eberechi Eze condemned United to their 15th defeat in 17 league outings. One of those replacements - Antwoine Hackford - became the youngest player to appear for them in a Premier League fixture when, aged 16, he was introduced during the closing stages.

“Antwoine making his debut was a bright spot for us,” Wilder said. “He should be proud of coming on, at this level, at that age. He did well and that’s what he’s got to carry on doing. He’s got to keep striving to get better, the same as all of us.”

Enda Stevens receives instructions from Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Paul Terry/Sportimage

“It’s tough,” Wilder added, referring to United’s casualty list. “But we’ve got to try and battle through it as best we can. Antwoine was in because he deserved that opportunity and he has qualities I think we need.”

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