New hope for Tonge as Blades delay op decision

MICHAEL Tonge, Sheffield United's most creative midfielder, has taken another huge step towards full fitness although the former England under-21 international is unlikely to feature against Middlesbrough this weekend.

Tonge has missed the club's last three games after being diagnosed with a flaking bone in his ankle.

Doctors had feared the 23-year-old would have to undergo surgery to cure the complaint but United manager Neil Warnock confirmed today that a decision on whether or not to operate has been postponed for the second time this week.

News that Tonge has made significant progress since resuming light-training on Monday has been greeted with caution by Warnock: "It seems to be good news but I'm not going to get carried away."

But the prospect of Tonge returning to action will lift the spirits of a squad still searching for its first league win of the Premiership season.

Warnock, who is expected to reveal tomorrow if striker Danny Webber will be available for selection when Gareth Southgate's men visit Bramall Lane on Saturday evening, said: "Michael has done well and says that he hasn't felt any pain.

"That's got to be good news and now we'll come to a decision early next week about the op.

"If he doesn't have to have it then that's better because he'll be back more quickly. But we'll do what's right for him."

United have officially announced the signing of Paul Gerrard. The Star revealed last week that the former Everton and Nottingham Forest goalkeeper had agreed terms until the January transfer window.

Reserve goalkeeper Jamie Annerson has been place on stand-by for England U-19s forthcoming games in a prestigious UEFA competition. Martin Donnelly has been called-up for Northern Ireland U-19s' Euro qualifying tie with Romania while Li Tie will represent China against Palestine in Jordan on October 11. Jacob Mellis has been included in the England U-16 squad which contests the Victory Shield.

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