Sheffield United players have relegation escape clauses says Prince

SHEFFIELD UNITED owner Prince Abdullah has confirmed that some Blades players have clauses in their deals allowing them to leave if the club are relegated.

Former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder with the club's hierarchy: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder with the club's hierarchy: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

In a wide-ranging interview with Sky Sports News, Prince Abdullah also claimed that former manager Chris Wilder wanted to resign twice and requested a £4m severance package to leave prior to his actual exit on March 13.

With the Blades almost certain to go down in 2020-21, attention is now switching to Wilder’s successor and next term and while players are likely to depart, the core of the squad will stay intact, according to the Prince.

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He said: “Some of the players have clauses in their contracts, so that if they get a certain offer, they can leave. We cannot do anything about that. But I can assure you that our first purpose is to get back to the Premier League.

“I think we have a great advantage. If you look at the Championship table, Watford and Norwich City are leading and Bournemouth are not far away.

“If we get an offer to sell one player, if we don’t have replacements, we will bring them. But our intention is to keep the core team. Staying in the Championship will not make us any money and is not the right place for a club as big as Sheffield United.”

Earlier this month, Wilder left Bramall Lane by mutual consent following a disastrous season, with the Blades having propped all the Premier League table all season.

Prince Abdullah explained the time-table to the exit of Wilder, who had significant issues with the club's hierarchy regarding a number of issues, including recruitment. The Blades supremo also gave his opinion on criticism of the Blades' transfer policy

He said: "In December, Stephen (Bettis, Sheffield United CEO) told me that Chris had talked about resigning. I was really worried and I knew that a phone call or a Zoom call would not do the trick, I had to sit with him.

"The problem was, because of Covid, all Saudis were banned from leaving the country. I spent two weeks trying to get permission to leave. As soon as I got that, I flew to London and drove to Sheffield and met Chris before the Southampton game [a 3-0 defeat].

"I told Chris, if we lose every game until the end of the season, we are not going to fire you. We need you to be our coach. I am not talking about emotion, I just believe you are the best manager to bring us back to the Premier League.

"I told him recruitment could be better and that we could sit down after the season and talk about how we could make it better.

"I told him that I am not happy that sometimes after defeats when you talk to the media [and say], 'I can't make cake out of sand' and when he says, 'all I have is Championship players'.

"It does not reflect well on the club image. Those players finished ninth in the table last season, it hurts the club financially.

"I am OK with Chris taking all the credit when we win but at least take some responsibility when we lose. Don't, under the pressure of some losses, say 'everything around me is rubbish'."

"Chris explained why he wanted to resign. He said that he felt the team needed a change, a new voice. We were very clear and said we don't want to fire you but if you want to resign, you can, but we will not pay you the same money as if we were firing you.

"The emails started between his representatives and our financial guy and we were astonished to find he had asked for £4m to resign.

"We said, 'no way are we going to pay you £4m, you are resigning, we are not firing you, why would we have to pay almost one year's salary?'

On tensions over recruitment in January, the Prince continued: "We also talked about the January transfer window just before the Southampton game. I felt good after the meeting and I gave him assurances. I went back to Saudi, I felt good.

"Then after we lost to (Crystal) Palace at the beginning of January, Stephen called me and told me Chris wanted to resign. I felt it was my mistake because we recruited how Chris wanted, we spent over £120m.”