Trio head for final talks over Blades vacancy

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SHEFFIELD UNITED have narrowed down their search for a new manager to three names – with Stuart McCall remaining the strong favourite for the post.

United have now completed their first process of interviews with seven candidates understood to have been spoken to by the club’s board.

Those include McCall, who is said to have cut short a club trip to Benidorm to speak to Blades officials yesterday after his club Motherwell gave him permission to talk.

Former Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate and Chris Morgan, interim manager at Bramall Lane following the departure of Danny Wilson last month, are also thought to be among those interviewed.

Second interviews are expected to take place next week.

MK Dons manager Karl Robinson has also been linked with the United job – although the level of compensation the Blades potentially could have to pay their League One rivals is expected to scupper any serious prospects of him heading north.

Crawley Town chief and Sheffield-born Richie Barker, who started out in coaching at the Blades’ academy, is among the other names mentioned.

McCall is understood to be the top target following an outstanding campaign at Motherwell, and was recently crowned as the Scottish Premier League’s manager of the year after guiding them to second place behind Celtic and a place in the Europa League qualifying rounds.

The 48-year-old spent the final three years of his playing career at the Blades and performed a player-coach role between 2002 and 2005 and is well regarded by club officials.

If United decided to plump for him, they are likely to have to pay around £100,000 in compensation for the services of the former Bradford City manager, who only penned a new two-year deal at Fir Park in March.

Despite McCall’s exploits at Motherwell, several players are set to leave in the summer with Nicky Law and Darren Randolph having played their final games for the club, while Michael Higdon, Tom Hateley and Leeds United target Chris Humphrey are out of contract and also expected to go.

The selection panel currently involved in talks to find the Blades’ new manager includes chief executive Julian Winter, director Scott McCabe and chairman David Green, with opinions having also been sought from independent figures within the game.