Warnock's contract casts cloud over the Blades' shopping plan

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The Independent Online

Neil Warnock is convinced that he will be able to persuade players to join Sheffield United next month, despite the club's uncertain future.

The Blades manager has money to spend in the transfer window as United look to avoid an immediate return to the Championship. The problem for Warnock is that he could be out of a job in the summer as his contract has only six months to run.

"It is a difficulty," Warnock said. "Players do wonder why you've only a few months left if things are going well and they want to sign. As a player you sign for the manager and not the club. I know I always played better when I signed for the manager. I don't think [the plc chairman] Kevin McCabe really understands that with players, but if that's how it is then it doesn't bother me. I'm sure I'll still be able to attract players to the club."

Regardless of the situation, Warnock has the players at his disposal all pulling in the same direction ahead of tonight's visit of Aston Villa, following wins over Watford and Charlton that have lifted United out of the relegation zone. "We now believe in ourselves, and the fans do," the manager said.

Claude Davis, Alan Quinn, Michael Tonge and Chris Armstrong are back in training after injury.

Chris Sutton is in line to be recalled by Villa providing he shows no reaction after returning to training following a three-game absence with a calf problem. But Martin O'Neill's side will be without their captain, Gareth Barry, who is banned for a game after incurring five bookings. Wilfred Bouma is likely to replace him at left-back.

Villa slipped to ninth in the table after the weekend games but the tightness of the competition outside of the top teams means they could climb back into the top six with victory tonight.

O'Neill said: "If you look at the sides outside of them and the top two, there is nothing separating us, and no one has been cast adrift like Sunderland were last season. It is really tight. Outside of the top four clubs - and maybe Tottenham with the amount they have spent in recent times - there is not many of us who would be wanting to look too far ahead. I don't think any of us can afford to do so."

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