Nigel Clough has again insisted that pre-season form is responsible for Andy Butler’s absence from Sheffield United’s first team squad.
The centre-half, who has made just one appearance since leaving Walsall earlier this summer, was pictured at the Banks’s Stadium at the weekend after being granted permission not to attend United’s visit to Coventry City.
But Clough, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Peterborough, argued his failure to command a regular first team place should be attributed to a series of indifferent displays during United’s preparations for the new campaign rather than anything sinister.
“Andy is free to do as he pleases, spend time with his family or whatever, if he’s not involved,” the United manager said. “There’s no point in a 30-year-old senior player coming to a hotel for an overnight trip in that situation.”
Dean Smith, Clough’s counterpart at Walsall, was surprised to learn Butler had attended their goalless draw with Bradford City according to sources in the Midlands.
Butler, who signed a two year contract with United earlier this summer after rejecting the chance to extend his terms with their divisional rivals, is thought to have interested Scunthorpe and Doncaster Rovers before arriving at Bramall Lane.
Butler partnered Neill Collins during the Capital One Cup success over Mansfield Town six days ago and scored the first of two goals which has secured United a second round tie against West Ham next week.
Clough, explaining his decision not to select Butler or Collins for the 1-0 defeat at Sixfields Stadium, added: “If you look at performances in pre-season, that’s why. We always pick on merit so that’s why might make some changes now.”
United, still searching for the first win of the league season after being narrowly beaten by Bristol City earlier this month, hope midfielder James Wallace could shortly recover from the groin injury which has hampered his progress since leavingTranmere Rovers.
“We want to get James back to proper training, he’s working hard at the moment though, and involved our next under-21 fixture hopefully,” Clough said. “If all goes well he’ll be able to play some part in that.”