Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has made central defence his top priority in the transfer market.
Wilder began overhauling the League One club’s squad by signing Mark Duffy and Chris Hussey earlier this week.
But with David Edgar, Jay McEveley and Alex Baptiste all departing during a ruthless close season cull of Bramall Lane’s playing staff, Wilder said: “It (centre-half) is a massive priority. We need players who, first of all, want to defend. We need players who want to get up the pitch as well if we want to press. It is important we have energy and athleticism in the two centre halves as well as being good defenders.
“We are working hard on that. We want to be competitive all over the pitch. It knows it sounds repetitive, but this is a physical game and we have to be physical in what we do as well as playing effective football in the right areas.”
Wilder wants to recruit at least two centre-halves before United report back for pre-season training later this month although the 48-year-old, who replaced Nigel Adkins at the helm three weeks ago, will sign three if finances allow.
“We want people to compete, it’s a physical sport. I expect everyone to compete and don’t expect players to pull out of challenges, whether they are Billy Sharp and Scougall at 5ft.8 or 6ft.4 defenders. It’s a man’s sport and they have to put their bodies on the line.”
“I won’t talk about the past. I will talk about where we are and we haven’t got a (senior) centre half in the football club at the moment,” Wilder added. “We have a young kid who will potentially be a ‘player’ for us from the academy in Callum Semple, but he’s possibly six months away. We need tough defenders who are going to stick their heads on the line and do what they need to do to keep the ball out of the net.”