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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Championship Transfers: Birmingham City and Sheffield United bide their time

As June turns into July, the Championship is split into those teams who are biding their time in the transfer market and those who have made early moves to strengthen their squads.

Two teams who will be fancied to mount promotion challenges next season, Sheffield United and Birmingham City, are among those keeping their powder dry and waiting fot the right player at the right price.

When Kevin Blackwell took over as Blades boss earlier in the year he inherited a squad that looked ripe for ripping apart in the summer. The men who had served Neil Warnock so well were not producing the goods for Bryan Robson and, James Beattie aside, none of Robson's own signings were impressing.

Blackwell however inspired his squad to an upturn in form of such proportions that the Blades almost reached the play-offs and in the process, changed the manager's thinking about his summer plans.

Now confirmed as manager on a long-term basis, Blackwell has said that he will not be making wholesale changes ahead of next season, preferring instead to keep hold of his star players and add to them with one or two quality signings.

"What I'm trying to do is like unearthing a diamond from beneath a pile of rocks," he told the Sheffield Star.

"I could go out and sign lots of people but I don't want to because, as results towards the end of last season showed, it would be foolish to upset what we've already got.

"They've got to be handpicked and the right ones."

Well-stocked in the striker department, Blackwell's focus is on landing an attacking midfielder with Peter Halmosi of Plymouth Argyle seen as a top target.

Birmingham City have made a move in the transfer market with the early capture of Lee Carsley on a free transfer after his release by Everton.

The rest of the traffic at St Andrew's however has been in the opposite direction. Mikael Forssell has returned to the Bundesliga while Fabrice Muamba has joined Bolton Wanderers for £5m and Mauro Zarate is no longer at the club after the end of his loan spell.

Doubts remain about the future of James McFadden despite Alex McLeish's desire to keep the Celtic target.

"We're lean as a squad in terms of numbers and I hope we'll be stronger on that front by the start of the season," McLeish told the Blues website after the sale of Muamba.

"We'd like to exploit the loan market which can be an effective way of adding quality players."

A new striker is also a priority, whether McFadden leaves or not. To that end, McLeish's connections with the SPL and the Scotland team have seen him linked with moves for Kris Boyd of Rangers and Hibernian's Steven Fletcher.

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