Nigel Clough has praised on-loan trio Kieron Freeman, Ben Davies and John Brayford for putting Sheffield United before their own egos, writes James Shield.
Freeman, whose agreement from Derby County was yesterday extended until the end of the season, has frequently played out of position since arriving at Bramall Lane but could revert to his preferred right back role against Rotherham United this evening.
Fellow defender Brayford and midfielder Davies have also deputised for injured colleagues in recent weeks as the FA Cup semi-finalists attempt to balance their League One obligations with ensuring preparations for Sunday’s visit to Wembley run smoothly.
Clough, the United manager, told The Star: “Players prepared to fill in for others, who don’t get precious about the job they’re being asked to do, are worth their weight in gold. Character like that is all important.
“We want to go with a smaller squad for a number of different reasons and so having that flexibility is key. We’re pleased with how they’ve done.”
Freeman, a Wales under-21 international, could be offered the chance to join United on a permanent basis should he prove surplus to requirements at County. Davies, whose contract at the iPro Stadium expires this summer, is poised to remain in South Yorkshire while Cardiff City will assess Brayford’s future shortly.
The visit of Steve Evans’ side marks United’s 17th outing in less than 10 weeks and Clough, speaking at the Redtooth Academy yesterday, believes that gruelling schedule has contributed to a number of slow starts.
“It’s a mental thing, definitely,” Clough said. “It’s down to tiredness but it’s a habit we want to break because it’s frustrating.
“I was talking to someone who runs a lot after the (Leyton Orient) match on Saturday and they reckoned that, if you’ve had a lot of long runs, it can take you 15 minutes or so to get going properly again.”