Sheffield United pulled off a major coup by signing Enda Stevens and Nathan Thomas, Chris Wilder insisted last night, as the League One champions press ahead with their summer recruitment drive.
Stevens, the former Portsmouth defender, and Thomas, previously of Hartlepool, were both being chased by rival clubs before completing moves to Bramall Lane.
Wilder, who hopes to strike a deal for Charlton Athletic’s Ricky Holmes later this month, is convinced his most recent acquisitions will blossom in the second tier of English football after competing in League Two last term.
Revealing he has been monitoring Stevens since his switch from Shamrock Rovers to Aston Villa five years ago, the United manager said: “ Enda is a really good player. We knew about him from Ireland. He went into Aston Villa but trying to get into a Premier League team at the time was a difficult process.”
Stevens enjoyed a brief spell working for Wilder during the 49-year-old’s spell in charge of Northampton Town.
“We took him on loan and then he needed a couple of seasons of first-team football,” Wilder continued. “He’s won back-to-back Player of the Year trophies at Portsmouth. I’m not being arrogant, but that’s a big loss for them, as their fans or staff will admit.
“We’ve got a really good footballer who drives the game forward and who can defend. With the way we play, we’ve got really good competition between him and Daniel Lafferty at wing-back.”
Wilder, who plans to hold talks with John Brayford about his future with United when the player returns from holiday, began overhauling his squad by luring Ched Evans back to South Yorkshire from Chesterfield.
As The Star reported last month, Holmes was the subject of an undisclosed offer after impressing with Karl Robinson’s side, although officials at The Valley insist he is not for sale.
Ryan Leonard, the Southend midfielder, and Wolves centre-half Ethan Ebanks-Landell are also known to feature on Wilder’s list of potential targets.
Thomas, who started his career with Sunderland, was a member of the Hartlepool team which was relegated to the National League, but Wilder said: “Technically, he’s got good ability.
“He’s also got something a lot of lads don’t have, which is that he can produce something out of nothing. He also proved he wanted to come here. I’m not embarrassed about getting him from a team that’s gone down. He’s a great player, at a great age and at a great price.”