Simonsen’s future on hold as Blades face play-off job

Sheffield United goalkeeper Steve Simonsen.
Sheffield United goalkeeper Steve Simonsen.
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STEVE Simonsen will put uncertainty over his future to one side as he attempts to help Sheffield United win the League One play-offs.

Goalkeeper Simonsen will be out of contract this summer and yet to sign a new deal.

The former Everton and Stoke City player, 33, has missed only two league games for the Blades this season and is keen to extend his stay at Bramall Lane.

However, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s play-off semi-final first leg away at Stevenage, Simonsen admitted that his main priority for now is getting the club back into the Championship.

“I am out of contract and nobody knows what the future holds,” he told the Yorkshire Post. “But I am not worried about that at the moment. The main objective is to get these games out of the way and win promotion.

“We will discuss contracts – whether there is one on the table or not – afterwards and see what happens,” he added. “I can’t say I have not enjoyed my time at Sheffield United. It’s been a brilliant season – no matter what happens now – but I am hopeful that we can sort something out.”

Simonsen is one of several Blades currently sweating over their futures including midfielder Lee Williamson, striker James Beattie and defender Johnny Ertl.

All accept that, due to financial pressures, the club are unable to commit to new deals before the season’s outcome is known.

After losing out to Sheffield Wednesday in the race for the second automatic promotion place, the Blades now have to navigate a route past sixth-placed Stevenage. The second leg between the two sides is at Bramall Lane on Monday night and the winners meet Huddersfield Town or Milton Keynes Dons in the final at Wembley on Saturday May 26.

The Blades’ involvement in the play-offs will be a new experience for Simonsen and will also offer his first opportunity to play at Wembley.

But the play-off route was not the way the Blades wanted to go up and, if they are to join the Owls in the Championship next season, they now have to shrug off a sense of loss. “It’s only natural to be disappointed. We had set our sights on automatic promotion all season,” Simonsen admitted. “It’s unfortunate that we picked up 90 points, we were the top scorers in the land, and still finished third.

“If you finish third, you go into the play-offs – no matter whether you have 100 points or you scrape in with 66. So it is now a three-game season and, if we win three games, we will be promoted.

“It’s good that we have this to fall back on,” he insisted. “We always knew that nothing was guaranteed. Unfortunately we lost out but we are doubly determined to finish the job off now.”

The Blades picked up just one point from two league meetings with Stevenage this season – the latter coming only 12 days ago when the two sides shared four goals at Bramall Lane.

Although the Blades have also failed to win in three games since the imprisonment of top goalscorer Ched Evans, Simonsen’s belief in the strength of the side remains solid.

The goalkeeper even insists that the Blades are the ‘best side’ in the play-offs.

“The team that finished sixth (Stevenage) were a lot worse off than we were, so we view that as we are the best team in the play-offs, but we have to make sure the best team gets promotion,” he said.

“I think the bookies will see us as the favourites. We have the best record out of the teams involved and were very unfortunate not to go up with 90 points. We have to justify that favouritism.

“This game, potentially, could be the toughest. This is the biggest hurdle to get over,” he said. “We have to get our ‘A’ game back on.

“Stevenage are a very hard-working, tough, organised side. We have played them home and away and know what they are all about.

“Having just played them two weeks ago, we know what to expect – but we have more than enough to come out on top over two games.”

“I have never been involved in the play-offs before. It is my debut and I am looking forward to it,” he reflected.

“We are taking what I call the scenic route to promotion. Hopefully. And we want to end up with a celebration at Wembley.

“There is a job to be done which I have not been able to do over 46 games. It’s a different challenge. The first challenge was to finish in the top two. We have been unable to do that. Now we have to finish top of the four teams in the play-offs.”

Having joined the Blades in 2010, Simonsen missed the Blades’ last appearance in a play-off final, three years ago, when they were beaten 1-0 by Burnley.

His only previous visits to Wembley have been to watch his native Sunderland.

“It’s down to us to deliver. That’s the very least our supporters deserve this season,” he said.

“We have two very tough games to get through in the next three or four days.

“Once we have done that, we will focus on how we want to play at Wembley.”

The Blades have no fresh injury problems ahead of tomorrow’s game but will be without striker Beattie who is banned for the rest of the season after his sending-off last weekend at Exeter City.

Chris Porter and Michael O’Halloran are front-runners to replace the former England international.