Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, is refusing to call time on his pursuit of Cardiff City right-back John Brayford, The Star understands.
Brayford, who spent the latter half of last season on loan at United and was instrumental in their run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, played the second half of Cardiff’s 3-0 pre-season win over Carmarthen Town on Monday and City boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær is keen to have an extended look at the player, signed by his predecessor Malky Mackay in a £1.5m deal from Derby County a year ago.
But Clough, who worked with Brayford at both Burton Albion and the iPro Stadium, has not given up hope of bringing him back to Bramall Lane next season - admitting that the 26-year-old is his “preferred choice” for the currently-vacant right-back spot.
Another loan move for Kieron Freeman was knocked back by Derby recently, and United officials have asked their counterparts in the Welsh capital to keep them informed if Solskjær decides to dispense with Brayford’s services.
“We’ve discussed John internally,” Clough, who hopes to unveil Blackpool youngster Harrison McGahey as his next summer signing, admitted.
“And he would be our first choice if we could get him.
“But until Cardiff decide what they’re doing, there’s not a lot we can do. It’s out of our hands.
“Ole’s got over 30 players there and he’s got to narrow that down to 20-25 soon, so we’ll see if John is involved in that or not.”
Brayford rejected an approach from AFC Bournemouth to drop down into League One with United, and scored twice in 20 appearances in red and white.
“As soon as I heard Nigel wanted me to come to Sheffield United it was out of the question that I’d knock him back,” Brayford said.
“He’s been a massive influence and was the person who gave me an opportunity in the game during his time in charge of Burton so I was never going to turn him down because it was important to say thanks.
“I had opportunities to go to teams a division above and, I’m not going to lie, if it had been anyone else asking me to go into League One then I’d have had to give it a lot of thought.
“But it wasn’t. It was Nigel who asked me and, not only is this a chance to play for him again, but also at what I’d call a proper, traditional club.”