Sheffield United: Preparations for crunch league clash hit by illness

Jamie Murphy is expected to face Preston North End this afternoon � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
Jamie Murphy is expected to face Preston North End this afternoon � copyright : Blades Sports Photography
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Sheffield United have been forced to place some of their most influential players in quarantine as coaching staff bid to prevent a sickness bug from sweeping through Nigel Clough’s squad, writes James Shield.

Clough, the United manager, confirmed Jamie Murphy and Marc McNulty are among those affected after revealing his team’s imperfect preparations for today’s crucial League One encounter against Preston North End.

McNulty vomited in the dug-out during last weekend’s FA Cup success over Queens Park Rangers after scoring for the ninth time since arriving at Bramall Lane during the close season while Murphy, his fellow Scot, was taken ill on the morning of the game.

Although both are expected to feature as United attempt to stop Simon Grayson’s third placed side moving 15 points ahead of them in the table, Clough said: “Everyone came through the weekend which is good. But we had a couple of bouts of illness.

“It was why Jamie didn’t start and Marc McNulty came off as he was feeling rough as well. Fortunately, no-one else has reported ill this week.

“The biggest thing is it spreads around. In training and when you are sharing a bus.

“Everyone is at such close quarters, it only takes one bug to come through four or five and it can severely affect the team. At this time of year, it’s always a concern.

“So, when anyone has told us they don’t feel too good, we’ve isolated them from the rest of the lads altogether.”

“Jamie could have probably only done ten minutes (at QPR) the way he was feeling as he did look like death warmed up sat on the bench,” Clough continued. “He is a pale lad at the best of times. But he did look particularly pale on Sunday.

He’d been ill two or three days before. He literally had a slice of toast on Sunday morning and that is all he had really eaten for a day or two.

“For Jamie to say he was going to struggle to start, he must have felt pretty rough.”

United, in sixth, have not win in league competition since November 15 despite their 3-0 victory at Loftus Road. They also reached the semi-finals of the Capital One Cup, where they face Tottenham Hotspur over two legs later this month, after adding Southampton to their collection of top-flight scalps.

Although defender Ben Davies will again be absent when North End, United’s next FA Cup opponents, visit South Yorkshire, James Wallace and Craig Alcock could both be available for selection after taking part in Tuesday’s Professional Development game against Birmingham City.

Clough said: “James played an hour in the under-21s and did well. But we have got to be aware he has been out for a couple of months and we have to rebuild him back up and not risk him too much.

“Craig completed 90 minutes which was good for him. It was his first game for about six weeks and it does take time to come back. When you have someone playing as well as Ryan Flynn, it’s about two things; getting his place back and being ready for it as well.”

“Ben is running which is good to see but he is not available yet. He is in training and doing one to one stuff at the moment.

“He got a nasty one at MK Dons with nobody near him. Once we knew exactly what it was, it was always going to this amount of time.”

Twitter: @JamesShield1

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