Persistent Blades close in on top target Sharp

Leeds 'United's Billy Sharp sits it out on the bench in this week's friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt in Austria. 'Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Leeds 'United's Billy Sharp sits it out on the bench in this week's friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt in Austria. 'Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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BILLY SHARP’S much-touted return to Sheffield United is set to be sealed before the weekend following a productive round of talks yesterday between the League One club and Leeds United.

The Blades have made the 29-year-old, who has had two previous spells at Bramall Lane, their top summer transfer target.

An initial approach was made early in the window but talks stalled due to Leeds wanting Jamie Murphy to head in the opposite direction as part of any deal.

Discussions resumed earlier this week and The Yorkshire Post understands a substantial hurdle was negotiated by the Blades yesterday. Leeds had been unwilling to subsidise a portion of Sharp’s wages if he moved down the M1.

Now, with agreement in principle believed to have been reached, Nigel Adkins – who has twice worked with the striker at Scunthorpe United and Southampton in the past – is keen to push on and conclude the transfer.

United, aiming to escape the third tier at the fifth attempt this term, struggled for a regular goalscorer last season and Sharp is seen as the man to solve that problem.

Sharp, who has a little under 12 months remaining on his Elland Road contract, has fallen down the pecking order at Leeds following the £2m capture of Chris Wood.

Uwe Rosler left the striker, who spent yesterday water rafting with his team-mates during a day off from the club’s training camp, out of Tuesday’s friendly defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in Austria despite him being fit to play.

The Leeds head coach was non-committal on Sharp’s future after the 2-1 loss for his side but a parting of the ways now seems certain as both Yorkshire clubs look to step up their own plans for the upcoming season.

Chief among these preparations for Rosler is a need to bring in a wideman with the Championship club understood to have made enquiries about Bastia’s Floyd Ayite and Catania’s Raphael Martinho.

Reports in Italy have, however, indicated that Martinho is interesting several clubs and that one of those is in Serie A.

One Yorkshire club yet to make a signing this summer is Hull City, whose club record signing Abel Hernandez is believed to be on Napoli’s radar.

The Tigers, who were yesterday officially granted Category Two status as an Academy after substantial improvements to the club’s youth set-up over the past year, splashed £10m on the Uruguayan striker but he proved to be a big disappointment and netted just four goals in 25 appearances.

City chief Steve Bruce is keen to get his own recruitment under way after last weekend having a bid for Southend United goalkeeper Daniel Bentley rejected and is set to discuss strategy with the Allams today.

Chris Powell, the Huddersfield Town manager, yesterday made his fifth addition of the summer after agreeing terms with former Barnsley defender Martin Cranie.

The 28-year-old has signed a one-year contract following a successful three-week trial after leaving Oakwell earlier in the summer. Town have the option of extending the deal by a further 12 months.

Powell said: “We have a good balance in our signings of Dean Whitehead, Jason Davidson, Kyle Dempsey, Jordy Hiwula and now Martin so I am really pleased with how the squad is taking shape ahead of the start of the season at Hull City on August 8.

“He has fitted into the group very well in terms of his personality and ability, and came into pre-season in fantastic shape. He is a good professional and very motivated.

“When I learned Martin was available to come in on trial with us, I wanted us to take up the opportunity and he subsequently was part of the week-long pre-season training camp in Spain and played 45 minutes in the friendlies against Guiseley, Leyton Orient and Grimsby Town.

“I think he fits the bill for us, as he has great know-how of the division and can play all across the back four, with his strongest position being centre back.

“He will strengthen our defensive options and add real depth for the defensive positions in my team.”

Cranie spent three years at Oakwell and made 122 appearances. He was also named captain. The experienced defender adds to Powell’s options in a position that last season saw captain Mark Hudson, Joel Lynch and Murray Wallace play the majority of games.

Bradford City have suffered a serious blow with the news that Filipe Morais could miss the entire season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.

The Portuguese wideman, who made 30 league appearances last term, is expected to be out for up to nine months with the knee injury that he suffered in training earlier this week.

Morais’s lengthy absence being confirmed came a week after Bradford youngster Joe Brennan damaged knee ligaments.