Sheffield United: Striker receives a message from Clough

Barnsley striker Chris O'Grady features on Sheffield United's wanted-list
Barnsley striker Chris O'Grady features on Sheffield United's wanted-list

Nigel Clough has warned Sheffield United will not pay over the odds for Chris O’Grady despite reaffirming their interest in the Barnsley centre-forward, writes James Shield.

O’Grady features on the short-list of players identified by Clough and his scouting department as being capable of filling the vacancy for a combative striker which exists within the League One club’s attack.

As The Star revealed last week, an understanding about the fee required to secure O’Grady’s release was reached during top secret talks between the South Yorkshire rivals earlier this month despite claims in some sections of the media that United would find it impossible to broker a deal.

But, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s pre-season friendly at Burton Albion, Clough told The Star: “Every piece of business we do has got to be exactly right. It’s got to be exactly right for us.

“All the deals we have done so far have been good deals for Sheffield United. The details are always important.”

“Chris is someone that we like and are looking at,” he added. “I think everyone knows that by now and it’s no great secret.”

Clough, who described confirmation that O’Grady’s employers will listen to offers as “encouraging,” first stepped into the breach when a £500,000 move to Charlton Athletic collapsed following Barnsley’s relegation from the Championship.

Despite holding talks with owner Roland Duchâtelet and his representatives, the 28-year-old returned to Oakwell after failing to agree personal terms. Although O’Grady would prefer to remain in the north of England after joining Barnsley from Sheffield Wednesday, Clough’s admission that alternative targets have also been identified can be interpreted as a sign United are not prepared to fall into the same trap.

“Chris isn’t the only person we’re looking at,” he said. “There’s others out there too and situations changes and develop all the time.

“We’re aware of things that might happen elsewhere which could have a knock-on effect.”

Nevertheless O’Grady, who has scored 21 goals in 59 appearances for Barnsley, possesses the attributes Clough believes can turbo-charge a frontline bolstered by new arrivals Marc McNulty and Jamal Campbell-Ryce. Chris Porter, an instrumental figure behind United’s march into the semi-finals of last season’s FA Cup, has also been handed a 12 months contract after his previous deal expired.

“We’ve got lots of options up there,” Clough continued. “And lots of different options too.

“There are the lads who have recently come here and it’s important not to forget about lads like Jose (Baxter) and Ports who were huge parts of the success we had here earlier in the year.

“Jamie Murphy has shown before that he can play through the middle too. So there’s no panic or rush because we’d rather do what’s right.”

“We will spend the club’s money as if it were our own,” he added. “That’s what we’ve always done everywhere we’ve been.

“We feel that’s the right and proper thing to do both in the short and the long term.”

United, whose under-21’s visit Stocksbridge Park Steels tonight (kick-off 7.45pm), continue their warm-up schedule at Northampton Town on Tuesday before hosting Dundee on Friday evening. Huddersfield Town travel to Bramall Lane on July 29, 48 hours before Turkish giants Fenerbahce meet Clough’s squad in the most prestigious fixture of a summer programme which finishes at York City on August 2.

Tickets for the meeting with Dundee are priced £5 adults and £1 concessions.

Clough said: “Hopefully we’ll get some families and kids down for that one which will be good to see. These are all good games and all serve a purpose for us with regards what we are trying to do.

“They all provide a different type of challenge which means we’ll be able to try a few things out.”

*Twitter: @JamesShield1