Sheffield United’s Leon Clarke will enter tomorrow’s game against Queens Park Rangers in the “form of his life”, Chris Wilder has insisted, after praising the centre-forward’s selfless approach.
Clarke has emerged as a key figure in the team which remained top of the Championship table following Friday’s win over Leeds after Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City both failed to win over the weekend.
Despite arriving with a reputation for challenging behaviour, other senior members of Wilder’s first team squad have described the former Sheffield Wednesday striker as a dressing room leader ahead of the visit to Loftus Road.
Echoing those sentiments, the United manager highlighted Clarke’s willingness to sacrifice himself for the cause as evidence that, since his return to South Yorkshire, nothing could be further from the truth: “I’ve got to say, I think Leon is performing as well as he ever done in his career,” Wilder said.
“If he’s done any better than what he’s doing now, here for us, then he must have been pretty special at his other clubs. His all-round play is exceptional.”
Clarke travels to London searching for his fifth goal of the season after scoring six times in as many outings as United cruised to the League One title last term.
“Whoever is out there with him, be it Billy (Sharp), Clayton (Donaldson), Brooksy (David Brooks) or whoever,” Wilder continued. “He takes on the responsibility of being the main man and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way to the skipper (Sharp) at all.
“Leon takes on the mantle of being the focal point, that’s what he gives us, and allowing the rest of the lads to work. You can’t put a price on that, it’s a brilliant attitude to have.”
United will enter their meeting with Rangers missing John Fleck after the midfielder collected his fifth caution of the season at Elland Road.
Wilder, who criticised several aspects of his team’s display in West Yorkshire, said: “The period coming-up to Christmas is a key time and we want to keep the hammer down and driving it forward.
“Our supporters have had to put up with a lot for a long time and so everyone is just enjoying it. But we’ve always got to try and improve.”