SMARTLY attired in a grey summer suit at Sheffield United’s major sponsorship unveiling on Monday lunch-time, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder had the look of business at the plush International Bar inside the club’s John Street Stand.
With the celebrations now over after the Blades’ promotion party, attention among Unitedities has now switched to not only visits to the likes of Anfield, Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium, but squad replenishment.
As someone who lives in the parish, it is something that Wilder is acutely aware of and after the equivalent of a ‘phoney war’ with most top-flight sides keeping their power dry in the transfer market, the Blades chief is expecting the activity to begin in earnest for the Premier League newcomers in next few weeks.
United are being strongly linked with a move for QPR’s talented midfielder Luke Freeman, with the likes of Middlesbrough’s Britt Assombalonga and Swansea City’s Oli McBurnie having also been consistently mentioned as leading targets, with the club also keen to bring back loan keeper Dean Henderson to Bramall Lane.
Wilder is hopeful of a breakthrough shortly as the transfer market – and not just the Great British weather – starts to hot up.
He said: “We have identified players and a little bit of a strategy and thinking of who we want.
“We want players of a certain age with a hunger and desire to go and compete in the Premier League and prove themselves.
“There have been a lot of names bandied about, but we are hopeful now.
“A lot of people have been away and taking holidays and we have been getting international dialing tones whether it is players, agents or managers or whatever.
“But now everybody is back and I think in the next week or two that everything will kick on and we are confident we will start seeing some names come in and that we will get deals done permanently.”
United’s transfer kitty may be handsomely swelled by the pot of gold they will bank following last season’s exploits – with professional services firm Deloitte estimating that promotion will be worth at least £170m over the next three seasons.
But there will be no wanton levels of spending, with recruitment to be targeted and strategic according to Wilder, who remains confident that the players who he has selected are both realistic and affordable options.
He added: “We are working away and are confident about the ones we have targeted. We are an attractive club to come to.
“We cannot compete (with most Premier League rivals) and people will go: ‘oh, he is saying that again.’
“I think it will be us and Norwich in terms of the market we are. (Aston) Villa are in a different market to us and you have to accept that and look at the teams who have established themselves in the Premier League after coming up in recent years.
“The Burnleys, Bournemouths and Brightons have been in the Premier League two, three or four years and obviously the riches that have been brought to those clubs make them in a lot stronger position. That has got to be our ambition to be in that position. Then you go above that.
“I think Villa will go on. Do they do what Wolves have done? I don’t know, but Wolves were a different one as well. They were set for the Premier League when Nuno (Espirito) Santo took over in the Championship.
“So that is probably a different one and that is where it is.”
The pride that the Blades are flying the Premier League standard for the Steel City and Yorkshire is manifest, certainly among the red and white half of Sheffield at any rate.
The financial spin-offs for the city recognised as the birthplace of football were also referenced by ex-Minister of Sport Richard Caborn at the unveiling of Australian global financial services company Union Standard Group as United’s new shirt sponsor.
Caborn spoke about how the consistent presence of two Premier League teams has helped contribute to the financial growth of Manchester and Liverpool – something unlikely to be lost upon those in the corridors of power in the county’s two largest cities of Sheffield and Leeds.
But for Wilder, dealing with the here and now of retaining United’s cherished and hard-won top-flight status is his primary concern.
He added: “The effect it has on everyone else is great and of course, we have connections with the city and if it helps the city and (wider) area, great.
“But I have got it all on concentrating on trying to put a team together to compete in this wonderful, powerful division.
“When you talk about the fourth biggest city in England and to have two powerful clubs, it just shows you how much football is loved in this area and the surrounding areas with the likes of Barnsley and Rotherham – and going a bit further afield.
“It is a historic football area and we are proud to be top of that list for our achievements over the last three years.”