If, as seems increasingly likely, Kevin McDonald turns his back on Sheffield United in favour of a lucrative move to Wolverhampton Wanderers, then all eyes will be on how David Weir responds. And not just in the transfer market, writes James Shield.
Does the United manager change a system which, with McDonald as its fulcrum, spawned several delightful passages of football both during pre-season and the League One opener against Notts County earlier this month?
Or will he consign a tactical blueprint his staff and players spent an entire summer perfecting to the dustbin of history by devising something completely new?
The former Scotland under-21 international, as Kenny Jackett acknowledged last night, has many qualities.
But, from United’s perspective at least, a sense of timing is not among them.
“It should be completed by midweek, by Wednesday,” Jackett, the Wolves manager, said. “He has good stature and gives good presence and he’s a ball player.
“He’s two-footed and hopefully he will give us some goals from midfield.
“He will bring composure to our midfield with so many youngsters here. I have liked him for a while.”
Jackett’s interest, The Star can confirm, traces all the way back to his spell in charge of Millwall when, according to sources in the Midlands, he first explored the possibility of luring McDonald to the New Den.
However it was only after arriving at Molineux, where Wolves are still in receipt of a £16m Premier League parachute payments, that he felt confident of securing the 24-year-old’s release.
Having discovered that a clause, guaranteeing McDonald the right to meet with any interested party willing to pay a prescribed amount had been inserted into the contract he signed 13 months ago, Jackett duly triggered it on Friday morning.
That set in motion the chain of events which saw the player return to Compton Park, Wolves’ training complex, for the second part of his medical yesterday.
Officials at Bramall Lane had been hopeful their promise of a new deal and enhanced salary would tempt McDonald to stay put. Especially as members of his inner-circle have reportedly advised him against leaving South Yorkshire.
But Jackett’s decision to break his silence indicates he is sure of getting his man.
Barring an unexpected change of heart, Weir, faced with the possibility of losing the influential midfielder, is likely to try and strike a strategic compromise against Colchester this weekend.
“We’re not and never will be a one man team,” he said before Saturday’s visit to Brentford. “We’ve got good players who can adapt.”
Meanwhile, Connor Dimaio has become the latest United player to earn international recognition this month after being included in the Republic of Ireland under-19 squad which entertains Norway in a friendly at Bray this evening.
His selection follows the earlier announcement that Jasper Johns and Jamie McDonagh could both feature for Northern Ireland when they face Scotland in an under-19 friendly later this week.
United’s George Long could win his first England under-21 cap, also against Scotland, when Billy Stark’s side visit Bramall Lane tonight. Long’s team mate Sean McGinty has travelled with the Republic for their Euro 2015 under-21 qualifier in the Faroe Islands tomorrow.
Boss’s delight as Lane duo benefit from countries’ call
George Long will emerge from his England under-21 experience an even better player, David Weir has claimed.
The Sheffield United goalkeeper could win his first cap for the Young Lions when they entertain Scotland at Bramall Lane tonight after being named in a squad which includes players from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.
Roy Hodgson’s presence on the touchline - the England chief will take charge on a temporary basis before overseeing tomorrow’s senior international between the two teams at Wembley - has added even greater significance to a fixture which forms a crucial part of the under-21’s preparations for next month’s Euro 2015 qualifier against Moldova.
Irrespective of whether Long makes an appearance, Weir, his manager at club level, told The Star: “International football can teach you so much. Not just on the pitch but off it too.”
The excitement surrounding Long’s inclusion meant Sean McGinty’s call-up by the Republic of Ireland under-21s went almost unnoticed in South Yorkshire when it was announced last week.
The United defender travels to Toftir tomorrow for their match with the Faroe Islands before returning on Thursday.
Weir, capped 69 times by Scotland, said: “It’s as big an honour for Sean as for George. I’m very pleased for the both of them.”