Sheffield United's recruitment plans scrapped and redrawn after massive setback

Sheffield United have been forced to redraft their recruitment plans after learning that Jack O’Connell could miss the rest of the season through injury, following surgery to repair a long-standing knee complaint.

By James Shield
Sunday, 27th September 2020, 4:00 pm

Speaking after watching his team beaten by Leeds in a hard-fought Yorkshire derby at Bramall Lane - a result which leaves them without a point from their opening three games of the new season - United manager Chris Wilder described the defender’s absence as a “huge blow” and one which has prompted him to approach the board of directors for permission to recruit a replacement.

With Wilder also hoping to bolster his attacking options - Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster and Folarin Balogun of Arsenal are among the options being explored - United must now find a way of balancing their need for a new striker with the need to draft in cover for O’Connell, who has been struggling with the injury since the end of last term.

“Jack, we need cover for that, and yes, it’s a huge blow,” Wilder said. “He’s an incredibly influential player for us.

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Jack O'Connell has been forced to undergo a knee operation. Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“It’s a big blow for us and a big blow for Jack, who had a great first season in the Premier League.

"For him to be out for potentially the season is a blow for us.

"A lot of things are going against us but we've got to roll our sleeves up, stick our chests out and get on with things. We've got to dig in and keep going."

“I’ve spoken to the owners, because we’ve known about this for a couple of days now,” Wilder, who could turn his attention to Huddersfield Town’s Terence Kongolo, added. “We need to bring in someone there, because we can’t go with just one. We’ve put some names to them (the board), they’ll take a look at that and then we’ll go from there.”

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With United without a league goal since July, Wilder’s efforts in the transfer market had been focused on bringing Brewster to South Yorkshire until the seriousness of O’Connell’s predicament became apparent. The England under-21 international remains his preferred option, but while Brewster is known to be keen on the idea of joining United, they are struggling to meet Liverpool’s asking price.

“Time is running out (in the search for a centre-forward),” Wilder acknowledged, after watching Leeds’ Patrick Bamford score the only goal of the game in the 88th minute. “I’d be daft to say the (goalscoring) issue is a permanent thing wouldn’t I. But we do need to be more clinical, because if you don’t take chances in tight games then you leave yourself on a knife edge. And I thought we created the better ones.”

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa said his side deserved the win.

“It was a just result. The first half was even,” said the visitors’ manager. “We could have scored, but we could have conceded and the second half was a lot better for us.

"We created a small, but just difference to deserve the victory.”

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