Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, could strengthen his squad during the January transfer window to avert the threat of burn-out.
As The Star revealed earlier this month, Wilder and his coaching staff have held a series of meetings with Bramall Lane’s hierarchy to formulate the club’s recruitment strategy over the short and medium terms.
Although the 49-year-old insisted he does not want a repeat of last summer, when huge swaythes of the squad he inherited from Nigel Adkins were approaching the end of their contracts, concerns about the toll a demanding fixture schedule might take on United’s players means negotiating new deals could take a back seat until Spring.
“Maybe it’s something we have to look at in January,” Wilder, reflecting on last weekend’s visit to Bradford City, said. “Just to stiffen the squad up a little bit.
“There were a couple of tired bodies out there. You could see a few losing energy and then they found it in abundance again. But that comes from their mentality, not the physical aspect. The character those lads showed was excellent. Now, they’ve got to go out there and show it all over again.”
United return to League One action when MK Dons visit South Yorkshire this weekend. They will enter the game fourth in the table and unbeaten in 10 outings after briefly climbing to third following the 3-3 draw at Valley Parade.
Centre-forward Leon Clarke is unlikely to feature against Dons, despite making progress in his battle to overcome an ankle injury. Billy Sharp and Matt Done have started United’s previous nine league games after Clarke was diagnosed with a chipped bone. But Wilder could be tempted to accelerate Caolan Lavery’s intergration into his first-team squad after being impressed by his cameo performance against Stuart McCall’s side. Lavery, who joined United from Sheffield Wednesday in August, replaced Done in the 70th minute of what McCall described as “fantastic advert” for the competition.
“With Leon being out, we are a little bit light in areas but I thought Caolan came on and showed us, the supporters and you guys what he’s all about,” Wilder said. “He was busy, made himself and handful and made an impression on the game.”
Despite acknowledging the race for the Championship places huge demands on those involved, Wilder will not allow his team to use tiredness as an excuse if performances tail-off during the second-half of the campaign.
“There are no excuses,” he said earlier this month. “Everybody who thinks they’ve got a chance is in the same boat. We train hard because that’s what the games are - hard. That’s not going to change and I think it’s helped us a lot, doing things that way.”