Sheffield United: Chris Wilder prepares for some of his toughest decisions since becoming manager
Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, believes he could soon be facing some of the toughest decisions of his career such is the ferocity of competition for places in the Championship club's midfield.
With Oliver Norwood excelling since arriving at Bramall Lane and Paul Coutts approaching his comeback from long-term injury, Wilder will be forced to choose between some of his most influential players during the next phase of the season.
Acknowledging the presence of John Fleck and Mark Duffy complicates the issue still further, combined with John Lundstram's return to form before the international break, Wilder said: "I want unbelievably tough decisions and I think I'm going to have those.
"I want difficult decisions. I want people knocking on the door and battling to get in. People now are going to have to play well not only to keep the shirt but also to get into the team in the first place."
Despite identifying centre-forward as a priority position, United overhauled their operations in the middleÂ of the park during the summer transfer window. Norwood's arrival on a loan to buy deal from Brighton and Hove Albion was processed following Lee Evans departure for Wigan Athletic while Ryan Leonard, who also operates at centre-half, also moved on.
Coutts, one of United's stand-out performers last year, has been out of action for 10 months as he continues his recovery from a broken leg. But the Scot, who played over an hour of Tuesday's friendly against Sheffield FC, is set to feature again when United host Charlton Athletic in a development fixture at the Steelphalt Academy on Tuesday.
"Those decisions, it's not an issue," Wilder said. "It's quite the opposite. It's the type of difficulty every manager will tell you they want."What I really like is the attitude the lads have shown. Lundstram has seen Ollie Norwood come in and he's responded in the right way. He's given us something to think about.
"Before that you've seen Duff and Bill (Sharp) both get themselves back in the team by showing that same attitude."
United's preparations for this weekend's visit to Bristol City have been complicated by the FIFA calendar, with many of their squad away on international duty. Oliver Norwood completed the full 90 minutes of Northern Ireland's 2-1 defeat by Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday while Conor Washintgon was an unused substitute. Ben Woodburn came on during the second-half of Wales' loss to Denmark this evening.