Sheffield United and Republic of Ireland defender monitored ahead of Birmingham City clash
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The Republic of Ireland international was introduced only minutes into last night’s game at Huddersfield Town, when Max Lowe was forced off after complaining of muscle pain. Stevens was making his first senior appearance since the beginning of January and, with manager Paul Heckingbottom keen to protect him, later made way for John Fleck during the second-half of a match United lost 1-0.
“We’ve made changes in the last few,” Heckingbottom told The Star. “Enda was always going to be coming on at some stage because we wanted to give him some minutes. But in the end, we had to bring him on too early if you get what I mean. We didn’t want him to effectively play a full 90 (minutes).”
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United’s approach towards Stevens’ rehabilitation could be interpreted as a sign that, with his contract set to expire this summer, the 32-year-old is likely to remain at Bramall Lane when Heckingbottom receives the go-ahead from the board to begin preparing for next term. Having won promotion from the Championship last month, the former Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian chief is desperate to begin the process of reprofiling his squad after being prevented from making any new signings in January due to a transfer embargo. Although that has now been lifted, with United using the money they generated from their march into the FA Cup semi-finals to settle outstanding debts, Heckingbottom confirmed after the trip to Town that he is not yet in a position to announce which of the 14 players scheduled to leave South Yorkshire this summer will be offered the chance to remain.
Meanwhile, Heckingbottom has outlined the circumstances which are also likely to see Jayden Bogle miss the trip to St Andrews; United’s final assignment of the campaign. Stevens’ fellow defender dislocated a thumb before the meeting with Neil Warnock’s side.
“He just fell awkwardly and caught it,” Heckingbottom said. “We want to see how he’s doing.”