Rhian Brewster approaching crunch Sheffield United period after welcome return from injury

Blades’ record signing made first appearance in 11 months at West Ham
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Three hundred and thirty-seven days. Thousands of hours on the sideline, watching dozens of games helplessly as his Sheffield United teammates battled successfully for promotion. Countless hours in the gym, waiting and working towards the moment that finally arrived for Rhian Brewster on Saturday afternoon.

The former Liverpool man’s return from a serious hamstring injury was one of the few highlights of a 2-0 defeat to West Ham, from a Blades perspective. They were better than the week before, a 8-0 hammering against Newcastle, but it still wasn’t enough to claim a first win of the season as familiar defensive issues were ruthlessly exploited by David Moyes’ men.

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But Brewster’s introduction off the bench, 11 minutes from the end of normal time, threatened to pierce the gloom developing over Bramall Lane at the minute. It was one welcomed by boss Paul Heckingbottom - who, speaking ahead of the trip to West Ham, admitted he wasn’t sure who was more excited about Brewster’s return, him or the player himself - and fellow striker Oli McBurnie, who said that Brewster brings “something different to what we have, and something that we need as well.”

The 23-year-old comes back into a squad desperately in need of a spark from somewhere. Only Burnley have scored fewer than United’s five goals in their seven games to date, with Cameron Archer the only striker to get on the scoresheet. Gus Hamer, with two, is United’s highest scorer, but the return of Oli McBurnie after his early-season absence and Brewster from injury will only increase the options at Heckingbottom’s disposal.

Brewster’s two previous hamstring injuries have come at unfortunate times, just when he was showing signs of getting going in a United shirt since his big-money move from Liverpool on this day three years ago. Five goals in that time is not the return that either club or player would have expected and the fee - often exaggerated at a £23.5m headline number that would only have been achieved through a series of add-ons and incentives - has surely weighed heavy on young shoulders at times.

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There is still time for Brewster to show the sort of form that commanded that fee, that made him one of the highest-rated young talents in the country, in a United shirt. An infectious character, Brewster has certainly put in the hard yards to get back as soon as possible and his dedication cannot be questioned. He will be managed carefully, boss Heckingbottom keen to avoid any chance of a third injury relapse, but Brewster will know that his side need him to step up now - arguably more than at any other time in his Bramall Lane career so far.

Bottom of the table and with one point to their name from seven league games, and a League Cup exit to League One side Lincoln City on penalties for good measure, this is a side that could badly use any sort of lift and morale boost. With the return of Brewster, they may just receive one.

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