The 22-year-old has been a key player for Liam Manning in Buckinghamshire during the 2021/22 campaign, making 48 competitive appearances and recording 10 goals, a remarkable total for a player that plies his trade in central defence.
Considering the majority of their signings have been loanees from Premier League clubs in the past two windows, the addition of Darling would be quite a considerable change of strategy, though it’s the route they should be looking to go down.
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You can understand why they decided to rely heavily on top-tier loanees during 2021/22 – because the likes of Morgan Gibbs-White and Robin Olsen are the type of players that can play a big part in helping a side return to the English top flight.
The former may have contributed far more than the latter – but they both have high reputations and the big bonus is the fact they probably came in for a reasonably cheap agreement considering they only arrived on loan.
In a bid to seal their return to the Premier League at the first team of asking, they can’t exactly be blamed for looking at the short term with these additions, but things now need to change following their failure to win promotion at the end of last term.
One bit of business that will go a long way in helping them to remain within the EFL’s profitability and sustainability rules is the sale of Aaron Ramsdale, who commanded an initial £24m fee and they may be looking for another player to sell this summer in a bid to give manager Paul Heckingbottom a much bigger transfer budget.
Sander Berge may be that man – but Football League World understands that interest has dried up in his services recently despite being the subject of intense interest from other clubs last summer.
They could look to move on others – but there are a few key first-teamers that are coming towards the end of their career and won’t be sold on for a huge amount, like Billy Sharp and Chris Basham, with another veteran in David McGoldrick being released and 31-year-old Enda Stevens unlikely to attract a high bid.
Having these sorts of players remains crucial despite their financial value depreciating – but it makes it just as important that they have players they can sell on for a higher amount in the future.
If they are to recruit bargains to make a profit on though, they will need to look at the free-agent market or in the divisions below them, with Darling a prime example of someone whose value could skyrocket in the future.
The length of the 22-year-old’s contract is undisclosed at this stage – but you just feel in a higher league and with a higher calibre of players to train with – the defender will only get better and continue to develop at Bramall Lane.
Manning’s side may want to charge a considerable amount for his services – but that asking price may not be a lot considering the fee they could generate for his services in the future with a considerable amount of second-tier experience under his belt.
Buying low and selling high has to be the way forward if they want to be sustainable and provide their manager with respectable transfer budgets to work with in the coming years.