Sheffield United: The clever pitch set to be made to prospective new signings

Having recognised that Sheffield United will be unable to match some of the financial offers Josh Doig is likely to receive as the race for his signature hots-up, Paul Heckingbottom’s pitch to the defender will revolve around a detailed career development plan should he decide to make an official approach later this summer.

Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 4:00 pm

Read More

Read More
Sheffield United: Former manager interests Russian giants

The strategy is likely to be repeated on numerous occasions during the transfer window, as Heckingbottom and his backroom staff attempt to attract top quality talent to Bramall Lane despite seeing their team beaten in last term’s Championship play-off semi-finals.

Doig, the Hibernian full-back, is among a number of names United are monitoring ahead of next month’s return to action with Heckingbottom keen to begin drafting in reinforcements before they travel to Portugal for a warm weather training camp.

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Darren Staples / Sportimage

The Scotland under-21 international also counts Bologna, Nottingham Forest and Brentford among his list of admirers. Aware that United’s second tier status means they will be unable to compete financially with many of Doig’s other suitors if they elect to ratchet up their interest, Heckingbottom has drafted a presentation outlining the footballing benefits of choosing Bramall Lane. They include the potential of a regular first team place and impact that winning promotion would have upon future remuneration packages.

Together with his assistants Stuart McCall and Jack Lester, Heckingbottom’s speech to Doig and other prospective new recruits also focuses on how spending time in South Yorkshire helped the likes of Aaron Ramsdale, Dean Henderson and Morgan Gibbs-White force themselves into England manager Gareth Southgate’s plans.

Josh Doig of Hibernian includes Sheffield United among his admirers: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

“I believe we’ll always be an attractive proposition,” Heckingbottom said. “We should be anyway, because representing Sheffield United is something anyone should be proud to do.

“There is a history here, a tradition and a passionate crowd that anyone would enjoy performing in front of.”

“No matter what happens,” he continued, “I think this is always somewhere that people will want to come because of the things we can offer. That includes on a matchday, in terms of the ambition and desire we’ve got to be the best that we can be, and also away from the pitch during the week in terms of how we look to bring people on and improve them.”

H.R.H Prince Abdullah bin Mosa'ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Chief Executive Stephen Bettis: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

The fee

Although sources north of the border claim Doig could command a fee in excess of £3m if he leaves Easter Road, United are believed to be keeping a close eye on his situation as Heckingbottom plots a refresh of his squad following its defeat by Forest in the end of season knockouts. Representatives acting on the 44-year-old’s behalf have yet to make contact with their counterparts in Edinburgh. But discreet talks are taking place with at least two other possible acquisitions. One of those is known to be a free agent while the other is contracted to a rival team.

Speaking before Heckingbottom revealed the tactics he will use to try and snare his leading targets, United chief executive Steve Bettis confirmed owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is also ready to invest heavily in the loan market following the success of Gibbs-White’s recent stint in South Yorkshire.

Although the midfielder has now returned to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Heckingbottom is convinced other youngsters contracted to top-flight clubs are likely to be impressed by the progress he made after arriving on a temporary basis 10 months ago.

“We’ve shown what coming here can do for someone,”Heckingbottom said, after hearing Gibbs-White describe how he now views his former United colleagues as “family.” “We know these lads can be good for us. Of course we do, because otherwise we wouldn’t be looking to bring them here in the first place.

“But equally, we also believe we can do a lot for them as well too. Morgan has been brilliant for us, yes. If you ask him, though, I know he’ll also tell you that we’ve been good for him.”

“That won’t be lost on people,” Heckingbottom added. “Either people we’re looking at who are in a similar position or the coaches at the clubs they are with who are looking to get them out and bring them on to further their education.”

The effect

Although Gibbs-White’s experiences with United are unlikely to impact upon Doig’s situation - the full-back will only leave Lee Johnson’s side on a permanent basis - they could prove crucial when persuading Premier League outfits to place some of their most promising youngsters under Heckingbottom’s command.

Chelsea, whose academy programme is one of the most prolific and successful in Europe, are known to prioritise sporting variables over monetary considerations during discussions about where to park some of their home-grown graduates. At least two of the players they recently sent-out on loan to the Championship are understood to have had their wages almost 100 percent subsidised, with financial penalties only kicking in if they failed to meet certain predetermined performance targets agreed before the deals were completed.

Crucially - and this could influence the thinking of Doig and others United are considering making approaches for - Heckingbottom also acknowledges the realities of the market.

“If people come here, they know they are going to be out there in an environment which is demanding and where there is expectation,” he said. “That is something that is going to be attractive, knowing the environment they are going into, for people looking to kick on when they go back; even though something more permanent could come out of every loan because you just never know.

“And then there’s the environment we try and create here behind the scenes as well. If someone does well and then they eventually move on to one of the really powerful teams at this point in time, then it means everyone has benefited and can benefit in different ways moving forward.”