Manager David Weir has backed his Bramall Lane midfield men to shine as he prepares for life without Kevin McDonald at Sheffield United.
McDonald was, as this newspaper went to press, understood to be closing in on a move to United’s League One rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Kenny Jackett, Weir’s counterpart at Molineux, lodged a bid for the playmaker last week, which triggered a release cause in the Scot’s contract.
Although fees in the region of £750,000 have been suggested, this newspaper understands that the actual amount is somewhat less.
McDonald was a notable absentee from the United side who lost 3-1 to Brentford on Saturday, and Weir must now reassess his options ahead of this weekend’s clash with John Ward’s in-form Colchester United.
“Just like everyone else, I am keen to get it over with and move on,” Weir said at a press conference yesterday.
“The delay is frustrating, of course, and I am sure that it has had some effect on the players.
“But it is a circumstance that we can do very little about.
“We’ve got to try and use it as a positive now: to give someone the chance to come into the team and try and replace Kevin.
“Every player is different, of course, and it’s fair to say we don’t have a like-for-like replacement for Kevin. But we have players with different attributes, and we can do a lot of things.
“We can play two strikers up front, with two of Lyle Taylor, Chris Porter and Joe Ironside; we can play Febian Brandy, Jamie Murphy or Ryan Flynn in the hole, and there’s young Callum [McFadzean] to consider, too.
“So we still have options, and we can mix the system up. You can’t go through your entire season playing the same team and formation, either, and different teams sometimes pose different challenges, so you need to match that.
“But it’s important for us as coaches to be able to adapt and adjust when needed.”
“I suppose that’s the nature of football,” Weir continued, when asked if he was frustrated to lose McDonald just two games into his United managerial career.
“You can lose your best player at any moment, be it to a suspension or an injury, and I’d rather focus on the positive side of things, to be honest.
“I prefer to focus on the things that I can control, and that includes trying to win Saturday’s game against Colchester.”
Ward’s Colchester side sit fourth in League One, with two 1-0 wins from their two games to date.
“They’re a good side,” the United boss continued.
“They have a number of good, young hungry players who came through the system at good clubs, and a number of experienced players too. So they have a good mix, and it’ll be a tough day for us, no doubt.
“We’ve had them watched, and we know that they have a number of players who can hurt us.
“But we want to think that we still have a number of quality players who can cause them problems, too.”
“We want to make Bramall Lane an intimidating place to come,” Weir added.
“I can’t speak for other managers as to whether that is the case; I just want to concentrate on us and make us as organised, as competitive and as good as we can be.
“We’re still bedding in, it’s still very early in the process but you don’t get a lot of time in this game. We’ve seen signs that we’re happy with, and we want to build something here over time.
“But at the same time, we want to be competitive every Saturday, too. It might take a little bit of time, but we are working to get there as soon as possible.”