Nigel Clough is expected to shortly firm up his interest in Kieron Freeman as Sheffield United’s search for a right back intensifies.
Derby County youngster Freeman, a Welsh Under-21 international, spent the latter half of last season on loan at United under Clough, who first brought him to the iPro Stadium from County’s arch-rivals Nottingham Forest.
And, as The Star revealed in last month, Freeman has been offered the opportunity to return to Bramall Lane once more this season - although sources in the Midlands suggest that the agreement is likely to be another temporary one.
Clough, who has already brokered a return to South Yorkshire for fellow ex-Derby star Ben Davies, hoped to have Freeman signed up before United returned to pre-season training at their Redtooth Academy complex today.
Despite reports linking League One rivals Doncaster Rovers with a late move for the 22-year-old, Clough’s previous association with the player - coupled with a successful loan spell which brought 12 appearances - mean United are likely to be in the box seat for Freeman’s services.
Although Davies, aged 33, is capable of playing on the right side of defence, Clough is targeting a specialist right-back as he steps up his preparations for the 2014/15 campaign, which kicks off on August 9 against Bristol City.
John Brayford remains on Clough’s wish-list and the United manager has asked Ole Gunnar Solskjær, his counterpart at Cardiff City, to alert him should Brayford become available for transfer.
But after a highly-successful loan spell last season, which saw United reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup and finish seventh in League One, Brayford is in demand and, despite never making a league appearance for Cardiff, Solskjær plans to assess him in pre-season training and he looks likely to get his chance in the Championship.
Clough’s other immediate priority is at the other end of the field, with Barnsley’s Chris O’Grady one of “a number” of strikers in his sights.
Confirming that Clough has been given sole discretion over transfer targets, co-chairman Jim Phipps said: “You build success on a foundation of success, and I’m glad we finished how we did.
“The lads pulled together, the fans got behind the club and Nigel’s leadership was key.
“The club is buzzing at the minute and we can’t wait for the season to start.”