He is fast becoming the forgotten man of Bramall Lane but Chris Wilder thinks James Wallace, Sheffield United’s injury-prone midfielder, deserves a break of the sporting kind.
Wallace has yet to feature for the League One club this season after suffering the latest in a long line of fitness issues soon after Wilder took charge in May.
Although the 24-year-old’s absence is a source of frustration for both United’s coaching staff and their paymasters at Bramall Lane, Wilder acknowledged it has taken an even greater toll on the player himself.
“James has just been injured the majority of the time I have been here,” he said. “He played 45 minutes against Stocksbridge in a friendly and then picked up a knee injury.
“He has struggled with injuries and is going through a frustrating period in his career. At the moment, he’s out with another injury. He is working hard, he’s a decent lad and he really does deserve a break.”
Wallace has not started a senior fixture for United since November 2015 when he completed 75 minutes of an EFL Trophy tie against Fleetwood Town. He did enjoy a brief run of regular football last term during a spell on loan with Shrewsbury Town, who face Wilder’s team at Greenhous Meadow tomorrow, before the inevitable curtailed his campaign.
Wallace’s prolonged spells on the sidelines are as wasteful as they are frustrating given his obvious talents. Ronnie Moore, his former manager at Tranmere Rovers, described the Liverpudlian as a “Premier League player in the making” when United lured him away from Prenton Park two seasons ago. Moore’s caveat - “Providing he stays fit” - has since proven to be depressingly accurate. Depressing because Wallace’s ability to score goals and intimidate opponents would make him the perfect addition to United’s engine room. When fit.
Wilder’s predecessor Nigel Adkins felt Wallace’s problems were part physical, part psychological and recommended a series of self-help books after being appointed United manager. The present regime, however, are taking a more tradition approach.
“James was a player who we spoke to, and said was free to go,” Wilder said. “Unfortunately, he hasn’t had the chance to impress anyone due to injuries,” Wilder said. “If he gets fit, then he’ll get that chance and who knows?”