Chris Wilder has warned it would be a mistake to under-estimate the role Leon Clarke has played in reviving Sheffield United’s fortunes after naming the centre-forward as a key member of his squad.
Clarke, who scored six goals in as many appearances during last season’s League One title-winning campaign, looks set to partner fellow striker Billy Sharp when United make their long-awaited return to the Championship this weekend following Wilder’s handsome tribute.“Leon is a leader,” the United manager said.
“There’s no doubt about it. If you go into that changing room, just because he’s not high-fiving everyone and cracking jokes left right and centre, that doesn’t mean he’s not. That’s just his personality. Make no mistake, he leads from the front and he’s a popular boy in there.”
Wilder’s comments are at odds with the public perception of Clarke’s character following well-publicised spats with Paulo Di Canio and Steven Pressley earelier in his career. But, as United powered towards promotion earlier this year, his willingness to play through the pain barrier won Clarke the respect of coaching staff and colleagues.
Revealing the 32-year-old had suffered an ankle injury soon after arriving at Bramall Lane, but Wilder added: “At the back end, he was a big player for us. He’ll be a big player going forward because of his knowledge, Championship experience and stature.”
Clarke, who is contracted to United until 2019, progressed through the ranks at Wolves before representing clubs including Sheffield Wednesday, Queens Park Rangers and Wigan Athletic.
Goalkeeper Simon Moore is scheduled to undergo an operation on his injured knee tomorrow. The procedure is not expected to delay his return to fitness.
Centre-forward Jake Wright has suffered a suspected broken hand during a trial at Notts County.