SHEFFIELD United’s pre-season preparations have been dealt a blow after John Fleck, the former Rangers midfielder, elected to join their League One rivals Coventry City.
Scotland Under-21 international Fleck, who saw a season-long loan to Bramall Lane fall through last term after paperwork complications, recently became a free agent after the demise of the Glasgow giants.
Following their liquidation, former United chief executive Charles Green took over the club and set up a Rangers ‘NewCo’, and attempted to transfer over the contracts of the playing staff.
Fleck objected to this move, however, and subsequently joined Coventry.
United boss Danny Wilson was a keen admirer of Fleck, as he looks to make his first major signing of the summer following last season’s heartbreaking Play-Off Final defeat to Huddersfield Town on penalties.
But one area he is not focusing on is his goalkeepers, preferring to place his faith in current shot-stoppers Mark Howard and George Long.
“Whatever happens we will stick with one goalkeeper for a while and give them a run of games to prove themselves,” Wilson said.
Wilson also revealed that youngsters such as Elliott Whitehouse, Joey Ironside and Callum McFadzean, who excelled in United’s run to the Youth Cup Final in 2011, have signed professional contracts with the club and will be given opportunities next term.
Meanwhile, United have agreed a contract with young Republic of Ireland starlet Joel Coustrain. The teenager, who confirmed his move to Bramall Lane via his social networking site, scored a hat-trick earlier this year for Republic of Ireland U16s against Belgium.
Coustrain, who has been capped four times by his country’s age group, reportedly had offers from a number of English clubs - including Bristol City, Nottingham Forest and United’s steel city rivals Wednesday.
But he elected to join United’s celebrated Shirecliffe academy, which counts Harry Maguire, Matt Lowton, George Long and Kyle Walker amongst its recent alumni.
Coustrain can expect to work with John Pemberton, who has become United’s new director of academy coaching. Pemberton was previously academy director, but switched roles to fall into line with English football’s new Elite Player Performance Plan.
“John has been instrumental in the development of Harry and George, and we have others coming through,” Julian Winter, United’s chief executive, said.
Follow Danny on Twitter: @dannyhall04