Chris Wilder has admitted it is impossible to say when Leon Clarke will return to action following his latest injury set-back.
The Sheffield United centre-forward has missed seven games after ankle complaint which has plagued him since December’s victory over Northampton Town resurfaced.
“It is difficult to put any time on when Leon is coming back, it’s a slow process,” Wilder said. “But apart from that, we had everyone fit and raring to go for the Scunthorpe match, which is great testament to the strength and conditioning staff.
“One out at this stage of the season is great news for everyone and it goes to show the work the people whose job it is to make sure that’s the case are doing.”
Although Wilder has previously expressed sympathy for Clarke’s predicament - “He’s a good lad who is desperate to get out there and do well” - United’s manager acknowledged he must now concentrate on those players available for selection as the race for promotion reaches a critical stage. Wilder’s side remain on top of the table - five points clear of second-placed Scunthorpe - following last weekend’s draw with Graham Alexander’s side.
“From now on in, my focus has got to be on the players who are fit,” Wilder said. “That’s not a criticism or being dismissive of anybody, it’s just the way it has to be.
“Leon is coming in and doing his work because he’s got the right attitude. The lads down there will keep his spirits up because, and this is understandable, he’s very frustrated with what’s happened.”
Wilder signed Clarke from Bury during the close season in an attempt to bring a different dynamic to United’s attack. James Hanson’s recent arrival from Bradford City - the six foot four inches tall striker returned to action following a slight groin problem on Saturday - has since lessened the need to rush Clarke back into action, meaning United’s medical department can now devise a comprehensive fitness programme for the 32-year-old.
“When people are back, we want them to stay back,” Wilder, speaking earlier this month, said. “Otherwise, it’s not good for them or for us.”