Sheffield United: Why no guidance is being offered to out of contract stars
After warning about the danger of allowing contract discussions with some of his leading players to descend into a state of paralysis, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom is refusing to provide any guidance to those whose deals are about to expire for fear of breaking a promise later this summer.
Although Heckingbottom and his coaching staff are attempting to ensure the squad’s focus remains trained on promotion ahead of tomorrow’s visit to Queens Park Rangers, two issues are beginning to cause a distraction at a critical stage of the season.
The first, surrounding American Henry Mauriss’ proposed takeover of the club, was again raised during the 44-year-old’s latest media briefing. The same goes for the second, as numerous members of the squad which travels to London ranked sixth in the Championship table prepare to become free agents following next weekend’s game against Fulham.
Former Sheffield United striker Lys Mousset makes big fitness claim after finding new club
Sheffield Wednesday boss and chairman unhappy after attackers leave for Premier League
'Really big' - Sheffield Wednesday's Carabao Cup details revealed as Rochdale's former Owl awaits return
Sheffield United: Jack O'Connell speaks out on his injury comeback status and return hopes after two years out
Sheffield Wednesday mull over loan offers - confirm that one has been rejected
Asked if he would provide those whose services he wants to retain with a signal about his intentions, Heckingbottom told The Star: “You can’t tell them. I’m not going to lie to them or promise them something that I might not be able to deliver on.”
After seeing United’s hierarchy authorise a 12 month extension for Billy Sharp and hearing defender Chris Basham, who acknowledged his agent has yet to hear back from the board, tell journalists coaching staff also want him to remain in South Yorkshire, Heckingbottom revealed several of their teammates have also sought to clarify their situations.
Ben Osborn, who is likely to feature at Loftus Road, Lys Mousset, Luke Freeman and David McGoldrick are also approaching the end of their agreements. As he recovers from surgery, McGoldrick, a member of United’s 2019 promotion winning squad, is in a particularly awkward situation.
Heckingbottom sympathises with the predicament many of those under his command find themselves in as they chase a return to the Premier League. But, in the absence of a concrete budgetary commitment from United’s hierarchy, he does not want to break the bond of trust which has propelled United up the rankings since his appointment in November.
“You’ve got to be honest with people and that’s something I’ve also built my coaching career on,” Heckingbottom said, as United prepared for the penultimate fixture of their campaign. “Clarity is key and we are at that stage when people want that.”
Although Heckingbottom accepted the uncertainty surrounding which division United will be competing in next term has contributed to the stasis, he is scheduled to raise the matter during one of his regular conversations with chairman Yusuf Giansiracusa. A respected and highly experienced lawyer, it would be a surprise if he has not been involved in the discussions which followed Mauriss’ reported £115m bid for current owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s shareholding.
“We have got different scenarios.” Heckingbottom said. “I speak with Yusuf every week and then we’ve got a board meeting on this and other things. Hopefully we can get some details on it.”
“I know we’ve got different scenarios,” added Heckingbottom, “Depending on what league we are in.”