Although he expressed interest in James Hill before the former Fleetwood The City defender has completed a £1million move to Bournemouth, the The star reports that the Hearts defender has always been Heckingbottom’s preferred candidate to fill the vacancy that exists for a new centre-half at Bramall Lane’s first team.
United’s board confirmed that young players – with particular emphasis on United’s own academy – would form the basis of the “strategic vision” that prompted Heckingbottom’s appointment in November, when the two-time winner of the promotion, Slavisa Jokanovic, was sacked following a series of disagreements on the recruitment policy.
John Souttar: Sheffield United reveal if they need to sell before they can…
Previously in charge of United’s Under-23 side, Heckingbottom stressed he was “always more than happy” to give youngsters a chance. But after watching them slip to 13th place in the Championship table after a string of postponements over the Christmas and New Year period, despite winning all three of their league matches under his command, Heckingbottom said The star United also need proven talent to fight for an immediate return to the Premier League.
Aged 25 and capped four times by Scotland at international level, Souttar fits the bill.
“The experience is going to be important,” said Heckingbottom, confirming he is battling Rangers and Blackburn Rovers for Souttar’s signature. “You could tear everything up and go with a totally young group. But you have to win to be competitive.
“Listen, a lot of clubs want to do that – to make youngsters and young players the center of their model. But if you’re doing that at the expense of league position, then that’s not the right model.
“This season, for me, is a great opportunity,” he added. “For me, the only thought is this season and what’s going on.”
Like United, who have four games in hand over sixth-placed Huddersfield Town, Heckingbottom believes Derby County’s latest opponents are in the wrong position after being twice deducted for breaching EFL financial regulations.
After allowing Phil Jagielka to leave when his contract expired after relegation from the Premier League last term – he was then taken on by the county – United could be forced to ask Rhys Norrington-Davies or Kyron Gordon to cover the center half if Jack Robinson is not available for selection tomorrow afternoon.
Souttar becomes a free agent at the end of the Scottish Premiership campaign and, although Hearts have advised reporters north of the border that it would take a huge offer to persuade them to sell now, lines of communication are believed to have established with officials. at Ibrox, Ewood Park and at South Yorkshire.
“We could do some, but we don’t want to focus on loans,” said Heckingbottom, whose predecessor Jokanovic limited himself to temporary, free transfers before being fired. “If the only thing we can do is lend, then it’s a short-term thing and, for us, we’re not really getting the full benefit of our hard work.”