Sheffield United v Everton - Blades will continue to trawl the bargain basements

Tonight’s Premier League visit of Everton will go a long way towards resolving the outcome of Sheffield United’s brilliant 2019-20, but planning has already started for the next campaign.

Demanding improvement: Blades' Jack O'Connell challenged by Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City. Picture: Darren Staples/Sportimage

The arrival of free agent goalkeeper Wes Foderingham is a sign of things to come. For most Premier League clubs a covid-induced transfer window of austerity will open a week today.

Six months after breaking their transfer record to sign £23m Sander Berge, Sheffield United will be no different, even if they do qualify for the Europa League. For manager Chris Wilder, it may be no bad thing if others are dragged into the market he has shown himself to be a master of.

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Like many of the waifs and strays Wilder has picked up and turned into the top-class players many threatened to be as youngsters, Foderingham knows what it is like to play for a massive club, joining from Rangers.

“At Ibrox, there’s an enormous amount of focus and pressure on you,” argues Wilder. “He’s a talented goalkeeper and we’re not bringing in someone to make that department weaker.

“I really work closely with Darren Ward (his goalkeeping coach) in that department. There will be a couple of changes in that department and on a free transfer and a three-year deal it’s a really good bit of business.”

Wilder was unwilling to elaborate on those changes beyond saying no decision has been reached over whether Manchester United will allow Dean Henderson to return on a season-long loan but polishing rough diamonds has been the Blades’ business model, and will be again.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any head-turning transfers from our point of view this summer,” warns Wilder. “We have to improve the group and players will go out.”

Identifying bargains is something he excels in.

“I think there’s a little bit of snobbery involved in terms of recruitment, there are players who we’ve shown can make the step up,” he says. “Look at Enda (Stevens), free from Portsmouth and he’s now he’s playing in the top 10 of the Premier League and for his country (Republic of Ireland).

“Any manager wants that ability to compete for the really good players, but they come with a number that’s sometimes over-inflated so we have to be cute and use the talent we’ve used in the past to bring players in.”

First, though, there is a season to be finished and a reaction to be had from a disappointing midweek performance at Leicester City. Wilder was outspoken in his criticism of his players afterwards. It is not the first time yet still it raises eyebrows but when he pushes that button, he usually gets the response he wants.

“We are all hard-working players and very sore losers, it’s the manner of the defeat is hard to take,” says centre-back Jack O’Connell. “Leicester was a wake-up call.

“We’ve set the standards so high and we dropped well below them against Leicester, it’s time to raise them again. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

“If you said at the start of the season we’d finish ninth we’d snap your hand off but we’re here now, and we need to pick up six points if we’re going to have a chance (of qualifying for Europe).

“We don’t want to go into a new season with bad performances and results, the main focus is just to bounce back now. Since I’ve been here, we’ve ended seasons in good form so I think it’s important we do that again and finish it on a high.”