Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough has challenged defender John Brayford to improve his form, and rediscover the heights he hit during a successful loan spell at Bramall Lane last season.
The popular full-back, who worked with Clough at Burton Albion and Derby County, made 20 appearances for United last season and scored two goals, helping them to the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
Brayford returned to Bramall Lane in January when United paid Cardiff around £1.5million for his services, but the 27-year-old has so far struggled to replicate his stunning performances of last term.
And, speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Scunthorpe United, Clough admitted: “John is struggling as much as anyone in the team at the minute, with his general play and his confidence.
“That’s one of the things we’re contending with at the minute but, in football, not everything always goes smoothly.
“John is just one player who has to improve his form and get a little bit of confidence back because, at the minute, he’s not looking the same player he was 12 months ago.
“But that’ll come back because we know it’s there.”
“We know the rest of the team can play better, too,” Clough added. “And that will come back between now and the end of the season.”
Clough’s side lost 2-1 at home to Fleetwood Town last weekend, and his misery was compounded when Chris Basham picked up his tenth booking of the season - meaning he will miss United’s next two games.
Jay McEveley also damaged his shoulder after a challenge and, with Terry Kennedy nursing a knee complaint, Clough will have to field at least one makeshift centre-half against Scunthorpe’s forward line, which could include Paddy Madden, Kevin van Veen and Gary McSheffrey.
“We have Craig Alcock and Kieron Freeman, and John too,” Clough said.
“So it might be that John goes in at centre-half, which he did last season. We’d have no issue with that.”