Sheffield United: Chris Wilder receives a major boost ahead of Bristol City clash as key player declares himself fit
Leon Clarke has returned to training ahead of Saturday's visit to Bristol City.
The Sheffield United centre-forward missed his team's final game before the international break, a 4-1 victory over Aston Villa, with a hamstring complaint.
But Chris Wilder last night confirmed Clarke reported for work as normal on Monday after being given the all-clear by the Championship club's medical staff. "Leon is back out there again," the United manager said. "He's in with the rest of the lads and so he could be ready for the weekend."
Although Clarke will undergo another in-depth assessment before a final decision is made on his involvement at Ashton Gate, Wilder's belief that he could be available for selection represents a maqjor boost ahead of the meeting with Lee Johnson's side. With the likes of Oliver Norwood, John Egan and Enda Stevens called-up by their respective countries following the Villa match, United's preparations for the fixture have been further complicated by the fact at least two are unlikely to return to Bramall Lane until later today, where they will also be examined by physiotherapists and members of the fitness and conditioning department.
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Clarke's recovery provides Wilder with some much needed wriggle room as his third placed side face opponents ranked sixth in the table. Despite failing to score since the corresponding fixture last season, the final round of the 2017/18 campaign, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday striker remains one of the best value for money signings in the division, scoring 28 times in only 58 starts following a Â£150,000 transfer from Bury two years ago.
Clarke has also matured into a much more complete player during his second-spell in South Yorkshire, which explains Wilder's willingness to continue selecting him despite that barren run in front of goal. Although the process began at Gigg Lane, where he emerged as the stand-out performer of an otherwise uninspiring squad, Clarke's contribution and work rate off-the-ball have markedly improved under Wilder's tutelage, bringing greater tactical flexibility to a department strengthened by the arrival of Washington from Queens Park Rangers on deadline day.
"We've got players who do different things up there," Wilder said. "They bring different things to the table. We saw (against Villa) than Conor has got that pace, even though he's not going to be content with 20 minute cameos. He'll want to get in the side."