WITH James Beattie hogging the headlines at Bramall Lane, Johannes Ertl and Andy Taylor have been able to continue their own battles for fitness in perfect isolation.
But, speaking ahead of Saturday’s visit to Chesterfield, Sheffield United manager Danny Wilson has confirmed the defensive duo are close to returning from injuries which make the former England and Glasgow Rangers problems seem almost insignificant by comparison.
Although Taylor faces several more weeks on the sidelines, Ertl, who has been absent since March with a serious knee complaint, could feature on the teamsheet at the B2net Stadium after emerging unscathed from the recent reserve-team fixture with Derby County.
He was scheduled to face Nottingham Forest in the Central League yesterday.
“I thought very seriously about putting Johnny on the bench,” Wilson, referring to last weekend’s victory over Carlisle, said. “Obviously in the end we decided not to but it definitely was an option.
“He’s made really good progress and is pretty much there.”
Given concerns about the depth of United’s squad, having a player of Ertl’s versatility at his disposal would represent a major boost to Wilson as he looks to close the gap between the South Yorkshire club and second-placed Huddersfield Town.
United, who are fifth, trail Lee Clark’s side by six points and, from Wilson’s perspective, it is important that does not grow further as League One approaches the crucial Christmas period.
An effective operator at either a centre-half or midfield anchor, Ertl availability could provide United with the option of resting youngster Harry Maguire to guard against the risk of burn-out while his physical presence would be a valuable asset in a competition where aerial supremacy remains key to winning games.
Taylor, the former Tranmere Rovers and Blackburn full-back, suffered a setback when he was diagnosed with a strained hamstring before the Carlisle fixture.
But Wilson said: “Andy is okay. It’s nothing to worry about.”