Sheffield United and Republic of Ireland defender suffers injury set-back
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The Republic of Ireland international had thought to be closing in on a return to action, with the Easter round of fixtures at one stage being pencilled in as a possibility. But Stevens’ hopes of featuring in either Friday’s game against Wigan Athletic or Monday’s visit to Burnley now appear to have been dashed.
“Enda has had a slight relapse with his hamstring,” Heckingbottom said. “It’s disappointing for everyone, as you would expect, but particularly for Enda himself. He was getting back and looking fit, stepping things up. But unfortunately he’s just experienced a little bit of a problem so we’ll get that sorted. He’ll be really frustrated.”
A veteran of the United squad which gained promotion from the Championship four years ago, being able to call upon someone of Stevens’ knowledge and experience could have proven invaluable for United as they attempt to secure a top-flight return. Second in the table, Heckingbottom’s squad contests the first of its remaining eight league outings this term when Shaun Maloney’s side travels to Bramall Lane before heading for Turf Moor. Max Lowe has made the left wing-back position his own in Stevens’ absence. But, given the complexity of a fixture schedule which also includes an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City, Heckingbottom would prefer to have as many options at his disposal as possible - particularly given that he expects to be forced “to rotate” at some point between now and the end of the season.
Another defender, Stevens’ compatriot Ciaran Clark, is poised to be declared available for selection shortly after making progress in his own rehabilitation following a hamstring complaint.
On-loan from Newcastle, the centre-half also made his most recent appearance for United in January.
“Ciaran had a bit of a spasm in his back,” Heckingbottom said. “But he’s looking fit and strong now and he’s in contention. That’s good to see. He’s been working really hard out there and putting it all in.”