Blackwell hoped to keep Tonge

Blades boss was reluctant to sell

Tonge: New challenge at Stoke

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Kevin Blackwell has admitted that he was disappointed to have to part with Michael Tonge on deadline day.

The Sheffield United boss was hoping to enjoy a quiet night on Monday, keen to retain the services of key men in his close-knit squad.

However, Premier League new-boys Stoke came knocking for Tonge and Blackwell accepts the deal was in the best interests of the player and the club.

"I was hoping the phone call wouldn't come, because I wanted to keep the squad together," he told the club's official website.

"It all happened so quickly from about eleven o'clock and it was a situation where Tongey wanted the opportunity to play in the Premiership again, and the club had received an excellent offer.

"We knew something could happen, but hoped it wouldn't. Some of the staff had to be at Bramall Lane until gone midnight because of that. Stoke put a bid in late in the day and that was that."

Challenges

Blackwell had previously helped nurture Tonge into a first-team regular during his time as assistant boss to Neil Warnock and was sad to see the 25-year-old midfielder move on.

"We grew up together in a way and I have seen him progress rapidly over my two spells with the Blades," he added.

"When I came back he proved to the supporters that he is a good player and he is a great lad.

"Tongey will have a hint of sadness about him, because this has been his footballing home for so long and he has known nothing different.

"Life is full of challenges, though, and it is a great chance for him and, more importantly, we have made sure it is a good move for this football club."