John Brayford, the Sheffield United defender, is expected to be fit for the start of pre-season training this week after Blades boss Chris Wilder hailed him as the “best full-back in League One”.
Right-back Brayford hasn’t featured for United since March after suffering what then-manager Nigel Adkins described as a “freak” calf injury in training.
Without him, United slumped to 11th in League One - and the Bramall Lane board elected to dispense with Adkins’ services.
But his predecessor can’t wait to work with the fans’ favourite, who impressed in a successful loan spell at United before making his move permanent last January.
“I saw John in that period when he was on loan, and he was outstanding,” Wilder said.
“He was a great signing and maybe John’s just had a bit of a dip, which sometimes happens with loan players. We want to give him the chance to go out and express himself; we have, in John and Chris Hussey, the best two full-backs in the division, because both can attack and defend, too.
“It’s a challenge to get him back up to the heights he hit during that loan spell, but we think it can happen and hell be a big player for us this year.”
Brayford, who began his career at Burton Albion, has made 64 starts for United and is expected to feature when Wilder’s side return for pre-season testing tomorrow.
“John was a big part of the club’s success when he was on loan, and he can drive a game forward from right-back,” Wilder added.
“There’s no doubt that John should be playing at a higher level, but he’s another one that finds himself in League One and I’ve got to now work out how to get the best out of him.”