Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has reserved the right to make wholesale changes to his starting 11 at Preston North End tonight.
The visitors’ march into the FA Cup semi-finals have come at a price with a number of enforced changes made to a fixture schedule complicated by the demands of television and adverse weather.
Although Clough has demanded that United must maintain their high-standards between now and the end of the League One campaign, despite acknowledging the important of next month’s showpiece with Hull City, he confirmed that will involve utilising every member of a squad as the South Yorkshire club attempt to guard against the dangers of injury and fatigue.
“All of the lads have a part to play,” he said. “If you take a risk with someone then lose them for three or four weeks then, by the time they are ready to go again, that is effectively the season over.”
United, who took Kieron Freeman on loan from Derby, took a conscious decision to trim the numbers at Clough’s disposal soon after his appointment. With Billy Paynter, Ben Davies and John Brayford also arriving on temporary contracts since the turn of the year, Clough said: “We’ve got a good solid group with competition for places. One of the reasons for doing that (cutting the numbers) is because we felt it was important that everyone here felt they had an opportunity to contribute.”