Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has predicted Michael Higdon will be equipped to wreak havoc among League One defences when he returns from suspension later this month, writes James Shield.
Higdon, a summer signing from NEC Nijmegen, had scored two goals in three games before receiving a three match suspension after being dismissed against Chesterfield 11 days ago.
And, revealing he is undergoing an gruelling fitness programme during the enforced break, Clough told The Star: “Michael only has a one (fixture) left (of his ban) and he’s showing a lot more in training now. He does all the normal first-team sessions and then, in the afternoons, he does extra with the under-21’s.
“Basically, he’s doing working twice a day with running in between. When you are not playing, you can do that for five days a week. He’s realised he has the opportunity to do that after missing out on a proper pre-season.”
Although United elected not to appeal Higdon’s red card - Clough described his challenge on Daniel Jones as “avoidable” following the defeat at the Proact Stadium - the 48-year-old insisted there were mitigating circumstances.
“The sympathy we have with Michael is he scored a perfectly good goal, which was ruled out for offside, just before he did what he did. We should be 1-0 up away from home, then Jamie Murphy goes clear, gets pulled back and nothing happens.
“We could have been away from home and leading against 10 men. It was frustrating but we didn’t try and get the card overturned because, even though we’ve seen yellows given for the same thing, it was silly.
“The shame, and the frustrating thing too, is that we were delighted with Michael in the couple of games before he got sent-off.”
Higdon, who also misses this weekend’s derby at Bradford City, will be eligible for selection when United host Yeovil Town in six days time. Clough’s squad are preparing for their meeting with Phil Parkinson’s seventh placed side ranked 10th in the League One table after being held by Leyton Orient.
Clough said: “We had a busy summer in the transfer market and, unfortunately, a few of the lads we brought in didn’t complete proper pre-seasons, for one reason or another, the same as Michael. Jay MvEveley was one of those whereas Ryan Flynn and Stefan Scougall had their ones interrupted by injury. There were a few others as well.
“But, as the season goes on and they get the minutes under their belts, they’ll really improve and feel the benefit.
“We’re talking about important players there. They’ll get sharper and sharper all the time as that process continues.”