‘Lets get physical’ if we are going to challenge

Grit needed: Kevin McDonald proves in the derby against Sheffield Wednesday that he can go in hard for the ball.          Picture: Simon Hulme.
Grit needed: Kevin McDonald proves in the derby against Sheffield Wednesday that he can go in hard for the ball. Picture: Simon Hulme.
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Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson last night predicted Kevin McDonald can become the complete midfielder providing he improves the physical side of his game.

Speaking ahead of today’s fixture with Notts County, Wilson paid tribute to the former Scotland U-21 international’s technical prowess but insisted that only by combining silk and steel can he realise his full potential. Wilson said: “The area Kevin can improve is the physical aspect. He’s got great technique, really good vision and is an excellent passer of the ball. But we want to see more from him in that other area.”

McDonald, who limped out of United’s 2-0 victory at Bournemouth earlier this month, is expected to be available for selection against Martin Allen’s side after medical staff quashed fears he had been badly injured. That diagnosis will be a boost for the 23-year-old as he battles to cement his place in Wilson’s plans during a season which could colour the rest of his career.

A member of the Burnley squad that beat United in the 2009 Championship play-off final, McDonald impressed during the Lancastrian’s first top-flight campaign in over three decades but could struggle to reach the same heights again should his summer transfer to Bramall Lane not prove a success. Especially following disappointing loan spells at Scunthorpe and this afternoon’s visitors last term.

United’s engine room looks a well-oiled unit when McDonald starts. But with the durable Nick Montgomery hoping to be in contention for today’s contest, McDonald must demonstrate the capacity to play through injury. “You definitely need something about you in this division,” Wilson said. “You can play football as we’ve tried to do, but you’ve also got to earn the right to do that because no one is going to just sit back and let you pass the ball around them. You’ve got to show you can do both and, overall, I’m pleased that we’ve done that. The lads are a professional bunch with good attitudes.”

United and County have not met in league competition for over 16 years with the latter triumphing 2-1 at Meadow Lane following a 3-1 victory in South Yorkshire earlier that season. The odds now, however, appear stacked in United’s favour with Wilson’s charges hoping to extend their winning streak to seven straight games in front of the Sky cameras.

With Richard Cresswell and Ched Evans the latest players to praise the inter-personal skills of Wilson and his assistant Frank Barlow, Allen also makes the short journey north knowing his sometimes unconventional methods have garnered respect among the County squad.

Jeff Hughes, their prolific midfielder, said: “He gives us a hell of a lot of confidence. He’s good at that and it’s very enjoyable playing for him. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves because he’s got that ‘Mad Dog’ tag. But there’s method to his madness.”