Sheffield United now face an uphill struggle to sign long-standing target

Sheffield United are facing a battle to revive their bid for Wigan Athletic’s Kyle Joseph after Celtic stole a march in the race for the centre-forward’s services by making him a pre-contract offer.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 4:28 pm

The former Scottish Premiership champions approached Joseph and his representatives earlier this month, as they attempt to jump to the front of the queue of clubs interested in acquiring the youngster’s services.

Tottenham Hotspur are also monitoring Joseph, whose agreement at the DW Stadium expires this summer. But Chris Wilder who was the first top-flight manager to make an official approach for the teenager’s services, is thought to remain open to the idea of luring him to Bramall Lane despite seeing a proposed bid collapse in August.

As The Star revealed earlier this term, Joseph, who has scored five goals in 16 appearances since making his professional debut, first came under Wilder’s microscope during talks aimed at signing former Athletic defender Antonee Robinson. Had that deal gone through rather than being hijacked by Fulham, who were able to hand the USA international a higher salary, one source with an in-depth knowledge of the negotiation process believes Joseph would also have followed Robinson to South Yorkshire.

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Jack Baldwin of Bristol Rovers battles for possession with Kyle Joseph of Wigan Athletic during the Sky Bet League One match between Wigan Athletic and Bristol Rovers at DW Stadium: Lewis Storey/Getty Images

But because the financial packages United had brokered for the pair were so intertwined, Robinson’s switch to west London also spelt the end of Wilder’s swoop for the 19-year-old. Some senior figures behind the scenes at United were keen on trying to resurrect it during the mid-season window. But after being told any business they could complete would be limited to loans, before a block was put on an incoming transfers amid concerns about the team’s position in the Premier League and the board’s perception of the quality of many recent acquisitions, another enquiry failed to materialise.

Joseph, rated as one of the most promising talents in the English Football League, is also known to boast admirers at Spurs and Parkhead; where a major rebuilding exercise is set to take place following a chaotic campaign which saw Rangers wrestle the title from Celtic’s grasp last weekend.

Officials in Glasgow have now attempted to exploit concerns about Wilder’s long-term future at United and the advantage legislation governing ‘overseas’ moves gives them over Jose Mourinho’s employers by trying to snare Joseph now before formally unveiling him in June.

Wilder’s injury hit squad, 12 points adrift of safety with only 10 matches left to play, returns to action with a trip to Champions League hopefuls Leicester City on Sunday.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder and his assistant manager Alan Knill: Mike Egerton - Pool/Getty Images

Although Chris Basham could be available for selection after undergoing treatment for a hamstring complaint, United are scheduled to make the journey without fellow defenders John Egan, Jack O’Connell, Jack Robinson and Jack Rodwell while midfielder Sander Berge is also another high-profile absentee.

City could welcome back Jonny Evans and Ayoze Perez, after their manager Brendan Rodgers said he expected the duo to resume training this week. They are third; a point behind second-placed Manchester United and three ahead of Chelsea, who face United in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup later this month, in fourth.

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Kyle Joseph is a player in demand