Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder bemused by John Lundstram contract stance

SHEFFIELD UNITED manager Chris Wilder cannot comprehend why John Lundstram is risking running his contract down in a global pandemic but having accepted the midfielder will be leaving in one of the next two transfer windows, he must now decide what to do with him in the meantime.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder is struggling to understand John Lundstram's stance over his Blades contract offer. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

Lundstram was one of seven players offered improved deals when the Blades returned to the Premier League and is the only one not to sign up, leaving his contract to expire in the summer when he can move on a free transfer. Wilder says he respects the decision but does not quite understand why the 26-year-old is turning down the security of being one of his club’s best-paid players at such a precarious time in such a precarious career.

The two parties are known to have been in talks since the middle of last season but Wilder said there were no serious bids for the player in the summer.

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Whilst the offer will not be withdrawn, the Blades have decided to draw a line under it and invite bids in January, their last chance to get a fee for a player they signed for nothing from Oxford United in 2017.

Sheffield United's John Lundstram is risking running down his contract at the club. Picture: Peter Powell/PA Wire.

“I think myself and the football club had to make this decision,” he said.

“Do we bow down to the demands of the players and the agent that are above where we think they should be? No. I believe we deserve the opportunity to see if we can recoup some money in January.

“If it’s not be, John will stay with us until the end of the season, he’ll run his contract down and that will be him off to a new club in the summer.

“If he comes to us and wants to talk about it, that’s a discussion for him and the chief exec. We’ve not really thought about pulling it (the offer). I would imagine we will honour that offer right the way through.

“We have offered John a very, very attractive contract as far as I’m concerned and as far as the football club’s concerned.

“It’s up there with the top (-earning) players at the football club and he’s made a decision with his agent that he doesn’t want to sign it.

“I wouldn’t have thought it’s a football (decision) because I think he’s enjoyed his football and been more successful than at any football club he’s been at. I don’t know if he’s got anything lined up in the summer.

“I don’t feel let down, not at all.

“He earned the right to play in the Premier League, he earned the right to put in these really good performances.

“Our part in it should not be underestimated but the boy had to grab the opportunity.

“I’m too old to start feeling personal about it and have been through too many situations. It’s frustrating and quite baffling but you understand it.

“He obviously believes we’re not giving him the money he is worth, or there is a club waiting on a free transfer.”

Wilder says Lundstram remains available for selection, and with fellow central midfielder John Fleck out for the next four weeks, his importance to the team has arguably increased despite not adding to his five Premier League goals since finding the net on the last day of last season.

But at a club which relies on team spirit more than most, Wilder must weigh up whether it is better to go with players committed to the longer-term cause or one who even sub-consciously knows a bad injury could jeopardise his chances of a free transfer.

Wilder’s next team selection will be for tomorrow’s visit of Manchester City.

“I’ll move on, I’ll not think too much about it,” he insisted.

“I’ve got to concentrate on players who want to commit and sign here, like Fleck, (Enda) Stevens, (Oliver) Norwood, (Billy) Sharp, (Chris) Basham, (John) Egan and the new players have.

“I’ve got to make that (selection) decision, with a short-, medium- and long-term view. Should I side behind the players who have committed to us or a player who doesn’t want to be at the football club?

“I believe if John does play, he will do his best. I wouldn’t pick him if I didn’t think he was in the right frame of mind but I’ve got to think quite hard.”

Having barely featured in the 2018-19 promotion season, a change of formation from 3-4-1-2 to 3-5-2 allowed Lundstram, who was released by Everton as a youngster, to blossom in his maiden Premier League campaign.

Initially it seemed January’s then-club-record signing of Sander Berge threatened his place but he remained a mainstay.

Fleck is not the Blades’ only injury, with striker Lys Mousset out until December with a toe injury, and centre-back Jack O’Connell not expected to play again this season after undergoing knee surgery.

Left wing-back Max Lowe is fit to return tomorrow.

He was back in full training before last week’s 2-1 defeat at Liverpool having had his debut against Fulham cut short by concussion, but protocols around that meant he was unavailable at Anfield.

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