Sheffield United place a deadline on contract talks

Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has set a deadline for contract talks with a number of senior players to be concluded by, admitting he is “a little surprised” John Lundstram, John Egan and Enda Stevens have yet to agree fresh terms.

Monday, 20th January 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Monday, 20th January 2020, 5:05 pm

Wilder made the revelation after again appearing to express frustration with the negotiating tactics of some agents, repeating his belief that footballers should “take ownership” of their own careers.

Although the 52-year-old stressed he was speaking in general terms rather than commenting on the trio specifically, the message behind his words was clear.

Indeed, when The Star pressed him on the progress of those discussions ahead of tomorrow’s game against Manchester City, Wilder replied: “Players are losing money by the week (by not signing) and I don’t understand that from my background.

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“There’s always a bit of negotiation, you just want it to get wrapped up.

“There will come a time (when the talks stop) of course. But that isn’t here now.

“But I’ve got to be certain about who wants to be a part of what we’re trying to achieve.”

“I’m still comfortable with what the majority have got left on their deals,” he added. “But when it does run down, you’ve got to make a decision, even though we are nowhere near that at the moment.

Chris Wilder presents Sheffield United midfielder John Fleck with a memento to acknowledge his 150th appearance for the club: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“From my point of view and from their point of view, I should imagine they’ll want to get it done as soon as possible.”

Lundstram, who has featured in all but one of United’s Premier League fixtures so far this term, has already been informed Wilder plans to trigger a clause tying him to the club for another 12 months when his contract expires this summer.

Stevens and Egan are both contracted to United until 2022, but Wilder explained he wants to “reward” them for their performances since helping the club gain promotion last season.

“My door is always open and no guns are being pointed at anyone’s heads to stay here,” he said. “I’d like to think players would have the b***s to say ‘it’s not for me, I want to move on.’

John Lundstram, (right) celebrates with his Sheffield United team mate John Fleck: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“I’m 100 per cent certain that’s not the case here. It has happened before and we’ve tried to facilitate that and get the best deal for the club.

“I’ll never force anyone to stay here who doesn’t want to be here.”

Wilder extended his own agreement before United’s victory over West Ham 11 days ago. That result, coupled with last weekend’s draw at Arsenal, has seen them prepare for the meeting with Pep Guardiola’s side in seventh; only a point behind fifth-place.

John Fleck, who scored United’s equaliser at the Emirates Stadium, is expected to be invited to discuss a new deal shortly.

John Egan (right) following Sheffield United's visit to Manchester City last month: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“I expected some (talks) to be done quicker,” Wilder acknowledged. “But I understand the world of agents and their relationships with players.

“I believe players should take ownership of their careers but they pay agents to guide them and they make demands. Sometimes they’re realistic. Sometimes they’re unrealistic.

“I’m a little bit surprised but that’s the way the modern game is.”

United’s progress at the highest level has inevitably seen other members of Wilder’s squad linked with moves away from Bramall Lane during the transfer window, although he stressed no approaches or enquiries have been received for regular members of his starting eleven.

Denying the approaches to Lundstram, Egan and Stevens are designed to protect the club and drive-up the players’ values, Wilder said: “Players will be rewarded for performances.

“We want to show those players that we want them to be a part of us moving forward.

Enda Stevens has impressed for Sheffield United in the Premier League: James Wilson/Sportimage

“It’s more of a reward than a protection. We are never protected.”

“If someone bigger comes in and offers us money and the players salaries that we can’t get anywhere near, then a decision has to be made.”