Sheffield United: Striker expected to return before the end of the season

Leon Clarke has struggled with an ankle injury
Leon Clarke has struggled with an ankle injury
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Leon Clarke is undergoing treatment at St George’s Park in a bid to accelerate his recovery from an ankle injury.

But Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder this morning revealed he expects the centre-forward, who has been absent since mid-January, to be declared available for selection before the end of the League One season.

Wilder, whose side are seven points clear at the top of the table ahead of Saturday’s visit to Rochdale, said: “There’s only Leon out, and he has gone to St George’s this week, for a week, to step up his rehab. Sometimes, a different venue just gives them a little bit of a boost. He’s there this week and will come back to us next week.”

Clarke, who scored 18 goals in 37 appearance for Bury last term, has been plagued by ankle issues since joining United last summer. He hit the target twice in his first two outings following a similar complaint over the Autumn period but, with Wilder acknowledging the player’s training schedule has frequently been interrupted, struggled to build upon that run.

Confirming doctors have now identified the cause of the problem, Wilder said: “They didn’t know whether they were going to operate, or inject it, and they have injected it. There’s progress, which is good for him.

“I feel he will be back before the end of the season. There’s 12 games to go, eight weeks of football left. He and us have both got a desire to get him back playing as soon as possible.”

Chris Wilder expects Leon Clarke to return to action before the end of the season: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Chris Wilder expects Leon Clarke to return to action before the end of the season: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Wilder, speaking during his pre-match media conference, also acknowledged Joe Riley has undergone surgery after dislocating a shoulder at the Steelphalt Academy last week. The defender, who arrived on loan from Manchester United during the January transfer window, has been invited to return to South Yorkshire next season.

“Joe’s had an operation, so he’s out for the season,” Wilder said. “That’s no surprise. That was a sensible decision, for everyone, and Joe’s long-term future.”