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Opinion: Why Sheffield United should be weighing up move for Nottingham Forest and Stoke City target

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Hearts centre-back John Souttar is currently the subject of interest from a range of Championship sides ahead of the January transfer window.

As per the Daily Record, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Blackpool, Millwall, Middlesbrough, Luton Town, Preston North End and Queens Park Rangers are all monitoring the 25-year-old’s situation at Tynecastle Park, with his contract north of the border expiring at the end of the 2021/22 campaign.

Nottingham Forest are also interested in the Scotland international’s signature, according to Football Insider, but it’s the Daily Record that have reported he would prefer to ply his trade south of the border despite interest from Scottish giants Celtic and Rangers.

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This development will please many English second-tier sides, potentially vying to win his signature in a cut-price deal in January considering his current contract situation as they look to avoid losing him to a league rival.

Football League World understands Stoke are currently leading the race to secure his services as he continues to generate interest, no real surprise considering his brother Harry is already at the bet365 Stadium and could help his sibling become accustomed to life in England.

But another side should be on high alert for the 25-year-old ahead of the winter window – and that club is Sheffield United as they adapt to life under new boss Paul Heckingbottom.

Switching from Slavisa Jokanovic’s 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-4-2-1 system, the Blades look much more comfortable with the latter and even the ex-Blades’ boss admitted defeat near the end of his tenure after spending much of the season opting to go with a flat back four.

Previously looking set to target wingers under Serbian Jokanovic, their transfer priorities have clearly changed with this formation switch and this alternation has highlighted the need to recruit another central defender.

Without long-term absentee Jack O’Connell at their disposal, they look severely light on options at the heart of defence and in the end, that could cost them a place in the top six at the end of the season if injuries and suspensions start to become a problem.

Jack Robinson may be able to step in if one of John Egan, Chris Basham or Ben Davies becomes unavailable, but at least five or six options in this position are needed if they are to cope with absences, perhaps best showcased by West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough who were forced to play midfielders and wing-backs in the centre of defence with swathes of players unavailable.

Switching back to a flat back four in the event of a similar crisis at Bramall Lane would seem like the South Yorkshire side are taking a step back and that may have an impact on results, so additions are very much needed when January comes along even though they have been reasonably lucky with their current centre-backs remaining fit for much of the season.

You have to say at least one central defender has to come in due to Chris Basham’s contract coming to an end in the summer and no certainty he will remain at the club, Ben Davies going back to Liverpool in the summer and potentially earlier if West Ham United step up their interest in him.

Souttar would fit the mould perfectly as a fellow Scotland international alongside Oli McBurnie and John Fleck, potentially helping him to settle in more quickly at Bramall Lane and with the switch to three centre-backs, he may be willing to join with regular first-team opportunities likely to come along.

He would also be a signing that United could potentially tie-up, with the club opting to adopt a conservative spending policy during the previous window despite the £30m sale of Aaron Ramsdale and a cut-price deal possibly there to be done for the Hearts defender.

His injury record in recent years is probably the only real drawback of concluding this deal, because at 25, he could be a successful long-term signing for the Blades and would only get better with more experience in English football as Queens Park Rangers forward Lyndon Dykes has shown since his move south of the border.

Whether this is a gamble worth taking though would need to be weighed up by the club’s board – but missing out on him and failing to address the centre-back area would leave opposition teams with a weakness to exploit if they become short on options during certain points of this campaign.

Heckingbottom’s men certainly have the required depth in the goalkeeping department, wing-back position and forward area to sustain their promotion charge, now is the time to pursue an international defender like Souttar who has recently shown he can step up on the big stage to deliver performances.

United will need as many players as possible to rise to big occasions if they want to separate themselves from other play-off chasers.

With Souttar currently the vice-captain of Hearts as well, the addition of another leader cannot do them any harm in their quest to get back to the top flight at the first time of asking.


A 21-year-old Reading FC fan and writer who graduated from the University for the Creative Arts in the summer with a degree in Journalism and Media Production. Other topics written about include politics, mental health and education.

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Opinion: Why Sheffield United should be weighing up move for Nottingham Forest and Stoke City target

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