United prepare for life after McDonald

Kevin McDonald
Kevin McDonald
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Glad all over? Glad it’s over more like, writes James Shield

By his own admission, the sight of Kevin McDonald joining Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier this week did not fill David Weir with joy.

But, speaking before this afternoon’s League One encounter with Colchester, the Sheffield United manager confessed to feeling relieved the saga had at least come to an end.

“Everyone knows where they stand now,” Weir said. “And that means we can plan for the future and move on.

“We didn’t want to lose Kevin. He’s a quality player so there’s no point in pretending otherwise.

“But, the fact is that’s he’s gone now. So that provides an opportunity for someone else.”

Whether or not that ‘someone’ is already in situ at Bramall Lane or is presently employed elsewhere should become clear over the coming days.

Weir and his staff, including assistants Adam Owen, Lee Carsley and head of football John Stephenson, are believed to have drawn-up a list of potential replacements possibly available in the transfer market.

However, the former Everton and Glasgow Rangers centre-half’s insistence that United “never have been and never will be a one man team,” indicates candidates equipped to fill the ‘number 10’ role McDonald performed with such aplomb during pre-season will also be thoroughly assessed.

Weir, speaking after last weekend’s visit to Griffin Park, refused to use the midfielder’s absence as an excuse for United’s 3-1 defeat.

However, although it was not the sole reason for that result, McDonald’s ommission from the team sheet was certaintly a contributory factor given the disruption it caused to a system which had worked to good effect against Notts County seven days earlier.

Wolves, who host United at Molinuex next month, secured McDonald’s services after becoming aware of a clause inserted into the contract he signed during last season’s tour of Malta.

The undisclosed figure, which is understood to be less than the £750,000 reported in some sections of the media, meant that the 24-year-old was able to enter into negotiations with Kenny Jackett’s side on the eve of United’s trip to London.

Powerless to prevent those talks from taking place, United nevertheless informed McDonald’s representative they were prepared to improve his client’s terms if he stayed put.

Not only would his salary have increased and a signing-on fee have been paid as a gesture of good faith, United’s hierarchy are also believed to have informed McDonald that he would receive a further rise should they reach the Championship before the new contract expired.

Given the demands of Salary Cost Management Protocol, which prohibits League One clubs from spending more than 60 per cent of their turnover on wages, the sums involved are unlikely to have been higher than £7,500 per week and £9,500 respectively.

Wolves, armed with a Premier League parachute payment worth around £16m this season, have reportedly agreed to pay McDonald, who was reportedly torn between heading to the Black Country and remaining at Bramall Lane, around £9,000 per week in the third tier.

McDonald said: “Wolves is such a big club and speaks for itself – only a couple of years ago they were in the Premier League.

“The new gaffer is wanting to get the club back there as soon as possible and I’m excited to be part of something here.

“I met the gaffer on Friday and he’s stayed in touch with me on the phone and has told me what he wants to do here and I’ve taken it all on board.

“I am happy to join the club and hopefully be a part of a successful team. I am sure we all know it is going to be a long, hard season.

“League One is a tough league to get out of as I know from playing at Sheffield United for two years.”

“The manager [Weir] has been good and it was tough to say goodbye to Sheffield United,” he added. “But I think this is the right step for me and hopefully I can kick on from here.”