Primary target for Clough is new centre-half

Defender John Brayford remains on Sheffield United's radar.
Defender John Brayford remains on Sheffield United's radar.
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Nigel Clough is racing to bring in a centre-half before Sheffield United’s new season kicks-off on Saturday.

The Blades have yet to replace the departed Harry Maguire, who last week joined Premier League side Hull City, and manager Clough hopes to bolster his defence before the lunch-time kick-off against Bristol City in League One.

With Clough having been foiled in his efforts to sign John Brayford – the full-back a loan success from Cardiff City last season – it means, the Blades are missing half of the back four which excelled in the second half of the campaign.

Nine players have arrived at Bramall Lane this summer, but Clough now hopes a centre-half can complete the jigsaw.

“Our priority is to replace Harry Maguire,” stressed Clough.

“Ideally that would have been with John Brayford but he’s staying at Cardiff for now. We made a bid and Cardiff didn’t say it wasn’t enough. They said he’s not for sale so we move on. If the situation changes then we’ll be in there again and John knows that as well.

“We don’t mind what level. But we want that experience Harry had. You don’t have to be 32 or 33 to get it. If we get a centre-half in and some full-back cover then we might look at a forward. But let’s see how the lads we’ve already got here will do.”

The Blades are missing James Wallace (groin) for Saturday, and several other players have been forced to sit out training for periods this week.

But Clough is confident he will have a full-strength squad to choose from – Wallace apart – come the 12.15pm kick-off.

“A few haven’t trained this week,” he said. “Craig Alcock, Bob Harris, Stefan Scougall and Jose Baxter but they should be okay for Saturday.

“James Wallace is the biggest doubt. He had a groin problem last season and it’s tightened up again. We’re hopeful he doesn’t need anything doing and that he’ll be okay for Mansfield (in the League Cup next Wednesday).

“We’re happy with the work we’ve done but we’ve lost a few lads at various stages. They do all these programmes through the summer, but there’s no physical contact. Because they’re fitter now you arguably get into the football quicker and that’s where you get these little problems.”