DANNY Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, has admitted his squad are facing a huge test of character as injuries and suspension start to bite.
Despite revealing that Lee Williamson should be fit for this weekend’s visit of Torquay – the midfielder hobbled off during Saturday’s win at Chesterfield with a calf problem – Wilson did express concern at the number of cautions United have collected this term.
Williamson, Stephen Quinn and Richard Cresswell are all one booking away from an automatic ban while Haiti defender Lecsinel Jean-Francois has already been forced to miss an important League One fixture due to his disciplinary record.
“We’ve got a few lads who are on four and that’s something we need to be wary of,” Wilson acknowledged. “To be honest, it’s not that difficult to get booked these days but that doesn’t mean we mustn’t ignore the situation.
“We’ve got a lot of games comingup and we want as many players as possible to be available.
“It’s one of the reasons why you never ever stop looking at players and, from a coaching perspective, probably always want to add a few more wherever possible.”
Williamson, whose participation at the B2net Stadium had already been in doubt due to another fitness issue, appeared in considerable discomfort when he was forced to retire towards the end of United’s 1-0 victory over John Sheridan’s side.
However, Johnny Ertl did return to action eight months after sustaining serious ligament damage during a reserve team match against Nottingham Forest.
The Austrian, who can play either at centre-half or in a holding role, was an 88th-minute replacement for striker Chris Porter.
“It was great to see Johnny come back,” said Wilson. “Not only for him on a personal level because he’s been out a very long time and has worked hard but also for us as a team because he can be a very important player.
“And, for reasons I’ve already outlined, it’s important you have as many available as possible.”
United bolstered the options at Wilson’s disposal by signing former England striker James Beattie on a short-term contract before making the short journey to Derbyshire.
Although hot-shot Beattie, who scored 34 goals in 65 appearances during a previous spell at Bramall Lane, did not feature, there is a possibility he could be named on the bench for the FA Cup second-round tie against Torquay in four days time.
United have devised a tailor-made fitness programme for Beattie and Wilson said: “Ideally you’d like to give James a bit of a run-out against lower opposition to ease him in.”