SHAUN Barker, the Derby County centre-half, has vowed to push himself through the pain barrier until the club’s Championship status is assured.
He has been unable to train since the midweek defeat by Hull City, but manager Nigel Clough confirmed the 28-year-old is set to anchor the visitors’ rearguard at Bramall Lane tomorrow despite suffering a recurrence of a long-standing injury.
“Shaun will need something doing to his knee at some point which will probably keep him out for about 12 weeks,” Clough said.
“There’s never an ideal time for this type of thing but we’re going to have to try and find it.
“His time out has to encompass the two month break in the summer – May and June – in order for him to be ready for pre-season training.
“In an absolutely ideal world we will get him operated on at the start of April with a view to him being back by then. But, of course, that depends on us being where we want to be in the table.”
Which, it goes without saying, is not 19th and just five points ahead of 22nd-placed Scunthorpe. United, who lost Tuesday’s match at Glanford Park, are 23rd.
Barker made his pledge to avert a full-blown selection crisis after watching fellow defenders Miles Addison, Dean Leacock, Russell Anderson and Jake Buxton also enter the treatment room.
“Shaun was fit when we signed he but got a thigh strain pretty much straight away,” Clough said.
“He carried that and then got his knee problem.
“So he’s never really been fully fit since we brought him here but he’s still out first-choice in that position.
“Really, it’s remarkable that somebody can play to that level with little or no training. It’s very difficult to step back into a game and for it all to click into place when you’ve not been involved all week.”
County make the short journey north having failed to win any of their last eight games.
Clough’s problems have been exasperated by concerns over the fitness of goalkeepers Saul Deeney and Stephen Bywater.
With Deeney ruled out on the eve of Hull’s visit, County were forced to hand James Severn his debut when Bywater succumbed to a muscle strain soon after the interval.
The teenager was culpable for Hull’s winning goal – misjudging the flight of a corner before Anthony Gerrard converted from close range – meaning Frank Fielding could start against United after arriving on loan from Blackburn Rovers.