Sheffield United: Chris Wilder’s unusual response to questions about Jack O’Connell’s prospects of facing Birmingham City

Chris Wilder has refused to be drawn on Jack O'Connell's chances of being passed fit for Wednesday's visit to Birmingham City.

By James Shield
Friday, 05 April, 2019, 15:35
Chris Wilder, manager of Sheffield United: (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

The defender missed Sheffield United's win over Preston North End, a result which lifted them to second in the Championship table, with a calf complaint.

Speaking before the trip to Deepdale, Wilder predicted the injury O'Connell sustained against Bristol City a week earlier was unlikely to rule him out of the meeting with Alex Neil's side.

After training as usual during the build-up to the match, O'Connell absence from the squad prompted suspicions he had suffered a set-back on the eve of the fixture.

But after David McGoldrick's goal propelled United back above Leeds with only six games remaining, Wilder said: "We'll see how Jack is. All I'm going to say is the same as I did earlier and that is he'll be given every chance."

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Wilder's obfuscation betrayed not only his desire to keep City guessing about the tactics United plan to employ at St Andrews but also the fact he is not adverse to playing psychological mind games as this season's battle for automatic promotion approach its climax.

With Leeds being beaten by Garry Monk's team, McGoldrick's first-half effort proved enough to lift United a point above their rivals from West Yorkshire.

Although O'Connell's failure to travel will be a cause for concern, Mark Duffy did start the contest at Preston despite fears he would also miss-out after damaging an Achilles tendon.

"I've got to say it was great to get Duff back as well," Wilder said. "He's a big player for us. It took him a while to get in the game but then he jumped all over (Ben) Pearson for them, I thought."