Sheffield United: Paul Coutts is about the take his most important step yet on the road to recovery
Paul Coutts' return to first team action could move a step closer tomorrowÂ when he takes part in a Professional Development League fixture at the Steelphalt Academy.
The Sheffield United midfielder is scheduled to feature against Charlton Athletic, after appearing in Sheffield FC legend Matt Roney's testimonial last week.
Although Coutts described himself as totally fine" during the immediate aftermatch of that game, he admitted the meeting with Charlton will prove a much tougher exercise.
"I'm sure the pace is going to be a lot quicker," Coutts said. "It's going to be a step up in that regard. "Hopefully everything will be fine after that and then I can really start pushing to get back out there again."
Tomorrow'sÂ match, which kicks-off at 2.30pm, represents arguably the most significant hurdle Coutts must overcome before persuading Chris Wilder he is eligible for selection at Championship level.
While the United manager expressed his delight at Coutts' involvement in Roney's celebration, the contest was essentially a non-combat affair. Athletic, who travel north having drawn three of their first four outings this season, are unlikely to afford him the same level of respect.
"I feel in my own head as if I'm ready," Coutts, admitting he has been "badgering" Wilder for the last three weeks, said. "But obviously there's a process I've got to go through.
"Once I've done that, then I'll be able to start pushing to get back in the team." "People have asked me about frustration at sitting games out," he added. "To be fair, there hasn't really been any until recently when I've felt in shape, feeling that I'm ready to be playing football again.
"To begin with, when the injury was healing, I knew I couldn't do it so there was no frustration."
Coutts, who has not featured since breaking a leg in November, is expected to continue his rehabilitation when Nottingham Forest's under-21's visit South Yorkshire on September 17. If he comes through that, having suffered no adverse reaction to his run-out against Athletic, Wilder will then consider naming him in a senior squad.
"I can't wait to get back out there," Coutts said. "It's been a long time but I feel stronger than ever."