James Shield’s Sheffield United: The big Ched Evans dilemma

Ched Evans is impressing for Fleetwood Town
Ched Evans is impressing for Fleetwood Town

Question: Which three Sheffield United centre-forwards have already scored four or more goals this term?

Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick immediately spring to mind. The other, of course, is Ched Evans.

After spending a couple of fallow years searching for form and fitness, (he served hard time in prison following a miscarriage of justice), the former Wales international is now doing what he does best. The only problem, at least from United's perspective, is that he is wearing the red and white of Fleetwood Town rather than his parent club.

I say problem because, with his loan set for renewal in January, Chris Wilder must decide what suits his own aims and the player's best. Does he renew the agreement with Joey Barton's side or, if Evans continues to perform, summon him back to Bramall Lane to bolster United's top six push? The answer, given the purpose of the move, is not as easy as it seems. Several factors are worth considering before a final call is made.

The first, although it will not be top of most United supporters' list, is common decency. Joey Barton, Wilder's counterpart at Highbury, took a chance on the player and has helped restore his confidence. The League One side deserve to know, at the earliest possible opportunity, if they must make alternative plans.

Evans' wishes should also be taken into account during the consultation process. Having started only three games for United since rejoining them from Chesterfield 15 months ago, he might well prefer to remain on the Fylde coast to further sharpen his skills.

Sheffield United centre-forward Ched Evans

Sheffield United centre-forward Ched Evans

Which brings me to the third and possibly most important factor in this footballing equation. With Sharp and McGoldrick both impressing, given that Conor Washington and Leon Clarke are waiting in reserve, Wilder has no shortage of attacking options already at his disposal. Unless Evans can be guaranteed regular opportunities, it is probably wise to leave him be and see out the campaign at Fleetwood.

Inevitably, after claiming 48 goals in only 113 appearances during his first spell in South Yorkshire, the temptation will be to recall the 29-year-old at the earliest possible moment. United know better than anyone what, when he is firing on all cylinders, Evans can do.

Given their investment in the player, both in a financial and emotional sense, it would be wonderful to see Evans starring once again in a United jersey. But, still less than half way through a 36 month contract, United can afford to play the long game unless there is an urgent need.

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

Fleetwood Town manager Joey Barton

Fleetwood Town manager Joey Barton