Sheffield United: Paul Heckingbottom identifies his transfer market priority

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has identified where the club must strengthen during next month’s transfer window, after placing a centre-half at the top of his wish-list.
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Despite admitting he will allow some players to leave when the market reopens, as part of a reprofiling exercise to correct the imbalances within his squad, the 44-year-old wants to reinvest some of the money raised by bolstering United’s defensive options.

Although reverting to a back three has coincided with an upturn in their results, it has also left Heckingbottom short of cover should John Egan, Ben Davies or Chris Basham become unavailable for selection.

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At present, Jack Robinson is the only experienced alternative at the former Leeds chief’s disposal with youngster Kacper Lopata currently at Southend on loan.

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With United’s strikeforce expected to bear the brunt of the reshaping programme - Billy Sharp, Lys Mousset, Oli McBurnie, David McGoldrick, Oliver Burke and Rhian Brewster, their record signing, are all competing for places in attack -Heckingbottom’s need to acquire another centre-half has been exacerbated by the fact both Davis and Basham could depart at the end of the season. Davis, previously of Preston North End, is on loan from Liverpool while Basham is among a host of big names approaching the end of their contracts. He recently told The Star he will review his future in “January of February”, if United signal they do not plan to take up an option which would tie him to the club for at least another 12 months.

Speaking before tonight’s game against Queens Park Rangers was postponed, which could have seen United stretching their winning run in the Championship to four matches, Heckingbottom confirmed talks about extending some of those deals are now underway.

Sheffield United centre-half John Egan (L) and captain Billy Sharp: Ashley Crowden / SportimageSheffield United centre-half John Egan (L) and captain Billy Sharp: Ashley Crowden / Sportimage
Sheffield United centre-half John Egan (L) and captain Billy Sharp: Ashley Crowden / Sportimage

McGoldrick, Sharp and midfielder Ben Osborn are also among those scheduled to become free agents.

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“We are discussing some of them now,”Heckingbottom said. “When you have been in for a short time, you want to see how people respond. Some of them will come with you and others will be frustrated at not playing as many minutes as they would like; that’s football, it happens everywhere.”