Sheffield United: Striker is issued with a Premier League challenge

Leon Clarke: Simon Bellis/SportimageLeon Clarke: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Leon Clarke: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Leon Clarke has been challenged to earn himself a regular place in Sheffield United's Premier League squad.

The centre-forward made the first top-flight appearance of his career against Liverpool at the weekend; 16 years after turning professional with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Although Billy Sharp's return from suspension could threaten to curtail Clarke's chances - the United captain was sent-off during last month's meeting with Southampton - Chris Wilder has reminded the 34-year-old he provides a potentially valuable alternative should his team find themselves being forced to change tactics mid-game.

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"We had Leon in if we needed to go back to front late on and chase the match," the United manager said, explaining Clarke's inclusion. "He is physical and we can go a different way."

Despite failing to appear on the team sheet for any of United's opening seven games, Clarke was brought back into the fold when Sunderland visited South Yorkshire in the Carabao Cup last week before also appearing as a substitute during the 1-0 defeat by Jurgen Klopp's side.

Wilder's decision to introduce Clarke nearly paid dividends when, after a goalkeeping error had handed Liverpool the lead, he was presented with an opportunity to snatch a late equaliser but fired over the crossbar.

Clarke looked set to leave United at the end of last term. However, when a move failed to materialise, Wilder named him in the club's PL squad. Doncaster Rovers and Shrewsbury Town were among those to express an interest in Clarke's services.

"There were options for him in the summer," Wilder said. "He's a good character and mixes well."