Alloa are bracing themselves for a raid for manager Paul Hartley should Motherwell boss Stuart McCall opt to leave Fir Park for Sheffield United.
McCall has been targeted by the League One side following the departure of Danny Wilson and, should he be tempted south, former Scotland international midfielder Hartley is seen as a strong candidate for moving up to the SPL after he successfully steered Alloa to back-to-back promotions from the Third
Division to the First.
Hartley has been at Alloa for two years since retiring from playing, and an Alloa spokesperson said: “It is no surprise that there is speculation. He has been terrific in his time here, but it goes without saying we would not welcome any approach. We have just secured a place in the First Division for the first time in ten years and Paul has plans in place for next season. We expect him to be here to carry them out.”
Sheffield United made an official approach to Motherwell yesterday for permission to hold talks with McCall over their vacancy and it is believed the Fir Park side have granted permission for their manager to hear what the Bramall Lane club have to say. Chief executive Leeann Dempster told STV: “I can confirm we had an approach from Sheffield United regarding Stuart McCall last night.”
Dempster has already stated the club would not stand in the way of McCall sealing a move elsewhere.
McCall was previously linked with moves to Blackburn Rovers and Burnley and, most recently, with Doncaster Rovers. He has found himself in demand after guiding Motherwell to second place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
Speaking on Friday about reports linking him with a switch to Bramall Lane – where he had spells as a player and assistant manager – McCall said: “You can’t stop speculation. I’ve never once looked to go elsewhere, whether as a player, coach, manager. If somebody wants to speak to you, depending on who it is, you would maybe say, ‘Okay we will speak’.”
Sheffield United chief executive Julian Winter told www.sufc.co.uk: “We have begun the interview process, the people already seen have been of a high quality and we are continuing to meet further candidates.”
One man who is hopeful that McCall will stay with Motherwell is Michael Higdon – although he admits his own future may lie away from Fir Park. The out-of-contract striker was presented with the Clydesdale Bank Premier League Golden Boot after netting 26 league goals.
But the Englishman admits that, at 29 years of age, he might have to quit the club if he is to maximise his earning potential.
Higdon, however, hopes he is not followed out of the exit door by McCall. He said: “Would it be a disaster if the manager was to leave the club? I think it would. He has done so well here. He’s a good guy and a great manager. He’s been linked with clubs because he’s been successful.”
Despite his reservations about the club’s prospects without McCall, Higdon concedes he may not be here himself to help the club next term as he looks to cash in on the best season of his career. The former Crewe, Falkirk and St Mirren frontman said: “I’ve just got to weigh up my options. The age I’m at now, if financially it’s the right move, I’ve got to look to take it.”