Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom has admitted he may be keener to hand out contracts to certain players than the Blades’ board may be, speaking candidly to The Star.
The Blades have 12 players out of contract next summer and with this, discussions over fresh terms will need to start sooner rather than later if they want to minimise the risk of a mass exodus in 2023.
Considering some of these players form a key part of the South Yorkshire side’s spine, with the likes of Wes Foderingham, Enda Stevens, Oliver Norwood and Oli McBurnie all due to leave next summer, it could create real instability if some of these first-teamers depart Bramall Lane.
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Heckingbottom seems to be keen on getting players to the negotiating table very shortly and with the potential risk of this instability next year, the Championship side’s board should be listening to their manager’s comments and taking action with that.
You can understand why the board may be reluctant to offer fresh terms to those who won’t generate a huge amount of money from their potential sale in the future, especially with financial rules to comply with regardless of which division they are in.
And speaking of divisions, what one they will be in next season will determine who needs to be tied down to a new deal and who could potentially be surplus to requirements.
They can’t afford to waste money, especially with Sander Berge yet to be sold and the real risk that the Norwegian leaves for a very low fee or for free over the next couple of years.
At the same time, some of those players who are out of contract next year and won’t be hugely valuable financially have become stalwarts at Bramall Lane, including Stevens, Norwood and Billy Sharp.
Those three are the type of players who are likely to have been key in setting high standards and creating a positive culture at United in recent years, so the board should be actively looking to take on board the advice of Heckingbottom who will know better than anyone else which players will give them the best chance of being successful and those that should be let go.
The Blades’ boss has shown over the past 10 months that he is capable of taking the club to new heights and has more than enough credit in the bank to play a big part in key decision-making.
The money being pumped into the club may be supplied by the owner – but he needs to trust those who have the football IQ to make the right decisions and increase the chances of United being successful in the coming years.