Sheffield United transfer target facing “months out” as injury puts deal hopes in real doubt
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Will Smallbone is sweating on the results of a scan on his ankle that could affect any hopes of him moving to the Premier League with Sheffield United this summer, amid reports the issue could keep him sidelined for months. The 23-year-old Republic of Ireland international is a confirmed target of the Blades, with reports of a £7m bid being rejected by the Saints last week.
The recently-relegated Saints are understood to be keen to hold onto the midfielder, especially given James Ward-Prowse’s departure to West Ham United and continued speculation over the future of Roméo Lavia, who is a £60m target for both Liverpool and Chelsea. But United are keen on Smallbone, who spent last season on loan at Stoke City and is now in the final year of his contract at St. Mary’s.
A midfielder comfortable on the ball, Smallbone - an international teammate of United skipper John Egan - has been earmarked as a key player in new boss Russell Martin’s possession-based approach and has started both of their league games so far, a victory at United’s city rivals Wednesday and a remarkable 4-4 draw with Norwich at the weekend.
Smallbone was taken off late in that game after suffering an ankle injury and has undergone a scan, to assess the extent of any damage, with Givemesport reporting today that the issue is “looking worse than first feared” and Smallbone is “expected to be out for months rather than weeks.”
Martin said at the weekend: “Will has taken quite a heavy whack on his ankle so I hope he is okay, because he has been great. He’s someone who has got a chance at this club he hasn’t had before, a chance to show how good he can be and I hope we scan it and it comes back positive.”
Smallbone played in 43 of Stoke’s 46 Championship games last season, contributing three goals and five assists from a deeper midfield position, but any potential injury could affect United’s pursuit of him this summer. Boss Paul Heckinbottom, after a stop-start summer in the transfer market so far, is keen for any additions to have an instant effect on the Blades’ starting XI and has targeted the upcoming period, with three of their next five Premier League games at home, as a big opportunity to generate some momentum for the rest of the campaign.