Sources reveal essential trait Sheffield United are searching for in the transfer market
and live on Freeview channel 276
After captain Billy Sharp and Enda Stevens were both released following United’s promotion from the Championship, two insiders with knowledge of the manager’s manoeuvres in the transfer market have told The Star that “personality” has been named as an essential quality all new arrivals must be able to demonstrate. The decision forms part of Heckingbottom’s attempts to prevent the loss of two of his most experienced squad members from adversely affecting the atmosphere inside the dressing room.
The duo, both speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained the 45-year-old is aware the departures of Sharp, United’s captain, and Stevens, another squad stalwart, could alter the dynamic of a squad which won 28 of its 46 outings last term.
“With Billy and Enda, it’s not just about what they did on the pitch,” the first source said. “It’s what they did off it too, behind the scenes, where they were a big positive influence on everyone around them.
“There’s still a lot of big characters in there. But those two, especially Sharpy, were among the biggest when they were there. So that leaves a gap that’s got to be filled, because you don’t want to place too high a burden on people like Eges (John Egan) and Bash (Chris Basham) and possibly cause them a distraction.”
“It’s not impossible to do,” they added. “But the gaffer is very aware that it’s not just about bringing in the right players. It’s about making sure they are the right people as well. That’s going to be important.”
Heckingbottom touched on this subject before the transfer window reopened, acknowledging that “There’s going to be times when we all have to pull together, like the lads have always done in the past, because you always expect tough moments,” earlier this summer. Determined to discover a niche in the market - which would enable the £20m initially placed at his disposal for new signings to stretch further - United have ramped-up their scouring activities abroad. Scandinavia and France, where Heckingbottom and his staff boast a strong network of contacts, are viewed as particularly fertile markets.
“You’ve got to be careful, if you’re bringing a few in, not to completely change the dynamic,” the second source said. “So that’s something they’ll be guarding against.
“You need people who are going to have the same values, when it comes to football, as the core.”
United resumed training earlier this week, with Heckingbottom still yet to welcome any new arrivals to their training complex. Sharp, aged 37, made over 300 appearances after embarking upon his third spell with the team he has supported since childhood. Stevens, a Republic of Ireland international, featured for them on over 200 occasions since leaving Portsmouth in 2017.
“That’s a lot of experience to see go out the door,” the first source said. “Especially when you know they are top drawer pro’s too. That’s why he (Heckingbottom) wants to make sure whoever comes in is totally committed to the place and not just themselves.”