Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder says releasing Paul Coutts was the “hardest thing I have done in my career.”

Wilder was speaking after making the decision that Coutts would not play for the club in the Premier League next season.

Coutts is one of five players whose current deals expire this summer who will not be offered a new one. Martin Cranie, Danny Lafferty, Caolan Lavery and Conor Washington are the others.

“Sitting down with Paul was the hardest thing I have done in my career,” Wilder told the Yorkshire Post.

“It is really unfortunate, his story. But he is on board. He understands.

“We are giving him the opportunity to find a new club. He is desperate to play.

“He wants to play 30 or 40 times a season and, unfortunately, we just cannot guarantee him that.”

The story of Coutts

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

The former Scotland Under-21 international was signed from Derby County in January 2015. During Wilder’s first season in charge in 2016/17 Coutts played a crucial role in them winning the League One title with 100 points.

That influence continued during the Blades’ first campaign back in the Championship in seven years. Then the moment that effectively ended Coutts’ career at Bramall Lane.

On 17 October 2017, the 30-year-old broke his leg during a league match against Burton Albion. The 3-1 win that day moved United to the top of the table.

They would eventually finish 10th. Many believed that the injury to Coutts played a key part in a promotion push eventually tailing off.

Wilder realised he could not longer be so over-reliant on the Scot. The following summer Oliver Norwood was signed from Brighton and Hove Albion.

Coutts spent just shy of a year on the sidelines as he recovered. He would start just two more matches for the club, while Norwood’s performances would see him named in the EFL and PFA teams of the year.

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