Sheffield United: Blades boss provides important update on Jack O'Connell and Lys Mousset
When Chris Wilder unveiled his selection picks for today's friendly against Stade de Reims, Jack O'Connell's absence alarmed both Sheffield United supporters who had travelled to France and those who were following events via social media back home.
With only a week to go before the start of the new Premier League campaign, the concern was inevitable. After all O'Connell, one of the most influential members of United squad, had also missed last weekend's win over Barnsley because of a sore calf.
But as he reflected on a pre-season programme which, following their 3-1 loss inside the Stade Auguste-Delaune has seen United record four wins and two defeats, Wilder allayed fears the defender is set to miss this weekend's visit to AFC Bournemouth. Instead, as he looked ahead to his team's first top-flight outing since 2007, the United manager explained O'Connell had simply been left at home as a "precautionary measure."
"Jack's okay," Wilder said. "He's fine, we just didn't think it was worth the risk.
"He's working back at our place, he should be available for the big one coming up and then going forward from there. We're not worried about him. Like I say, we just felt doing it this way was for the best."
Although he stopped short of providing a cast-iron guarantee, by predicting O'Connell should be fit for the trip to Dorset, Wilder has addressed some of the more hysterical theories about the player's condition which had begun to appear on the internet.
Having acknowledged the need for United to quickly establish a foothold in a division they have not graced for 12 years, losing O'Connell - whose overlapping runs from centre-half make him a pivotal figure in their 3-5-2 system - would have dealt a major blow to Wilder's hopes of achieving a positive result at The Vitality Stadium.
Someone who does look set to miss-out however, is new signing Lys Mousset. The striker, who joined United from Eddie Howe's side last month, was also granted permission to miss the meeting with Reims to work on his fitness.
"Again, it's nothing major," Wilder, attributing Mousset's predicament to the disruption caused by his transfer, said. "He missed a few sessions because of everything that was going on (around the move) and they're particularly important at this stage of the year. So we just want to get him up the speed properly. Because it's not just about one game, it's about being ready for a whole season."