Sheffield Unired defender Jack O'Connell is approaching a crossroads in his recovery from injury

Sheffield United have refused to put a timeframe on Jack O’Connell’s recovery from knee surgery, after it emerged the next phase of the centre-half’s rehabilitation programme will depend on how he responds to the treatment over the coming weeks.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 6:00 pm
Jack O'Connell underwent surgery in September: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

As The Star reported on Thursday, O’Connell is unlikely to feature again this season after suffering what was described as a minor set-back over the festive period as he intensified his training regime.

Although Paul Heckingbottom refused to divulge exactly what the issue was, the former Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian manager, who took caretaker charge of United following Chris Wilder’s departure, did appear to suggest that O’Connell’s recovery schedule is approaching a crossroads.

“Jack, at the moment, is still going through a process,” Heckingbottom said. “He’s doing that because there was a reaction, and everyone wants to make sure it’s right.

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“He’s going through a step programme, and what happens depends on how those are completed. That is mapped out, but if it doesn’t work then he could be going down a different route.”

O’Connell has not featured for United since September, with his absence recognised as a major factor behind United’s terrible results this term. Despite finishing ninth in the table last season, only a year after being promoted from the Championship, United have prepared for Sunday’s game against Arsenal 15 points adrift of Premier League safety with only eight matches remaining.

Heckingbottom was able to speak more positively about the chances John Egan, Jayden Bogle and George Baldock could be involved against Mikel Arteta’s side. Egan made his return from a toe problem during last weekend’s defeat by Leeds. Bogle and Baldock both suffered concussion at Elland Road, but have been progressing well under medical supervision.

“Jayden and George, they’ve come through every stage of what they have to do so far,” Heckingbottom said. “Again, it’s a phase thing and they’ve passed them all up to now.

"They’re in the last one now, and so long as there’s no reaction to that, then they should have every chance of being in contention. John, it’s a case of building him up and getting him more and more minutes.”