Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has refused to offer Mark Howard any first team guarantees as the former Blackpool goalkeeper prepares to return from injury.
Instead Clough, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s League One fixture against Peterborough, warned Howard must prove he is worthy of a recall after watching deputy Iain Turner impress in his absence.
“Mark isn’t certain to start,” Clough told The Star. “Nobody here - Mark, Jose Baxter or whoever - gets that type of assurance from us.
“It’s great that he’s coming back because we know he’s a quality player.
We know what he brings to the table and gives to the team.
“But Iain falls into the same bracket and he’s also done ever so well. If, after doing everything that was asked of him, Iain then lost his place straight away I think he’d have every right to ask us why.
“There might be a perfectly good explanation.
“But he’d have every right to ask.”
Turner, capped by Scotland at under-21 and B level, has made seven appearances since a back problem forced Howard to miss last month’s victory over promotion rivals Swindon Town.
Although he has kept only one clean sheet, United have not lost after the 31-year-old seized his opportunity having previously been limited to outings in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
They remained fifth in the table after drawing 1-1 with Crawley Town two days ago.
Defending the decision to remove Howard from the spotlight, Clough said: “Mark had been struggling (with his back) for a while and, when you think back to the kick at Gillingham which gave them a goal, I think it was starting to affect him.
“That wasn’t the Mark we know and it wasn’t the type of thing he’d usually do.
“We’re in a fortunate position whereby we’ve not had to rush him back because there’s absolutely no panic about playing Iain.
“We’re lucky that we’ve got two top class ‘keepers like that at our disposal both of whom most people would be more than happy to play.”
Meanwhile, Terry Kennedy is expected to miss the meeting with Peterborough after injuring his knee at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
With Chris Basham one booking away from suspension, Clough said: “It might be that we give Terry a little rest because, the chances are, we are going to need him out there at some stage soon.
“We have to guide Terry through matches anyway and be a little bit careful about when he plays because of the problem he’s had there but he just took a little bit of a whack there.”