Ched Evans could be excused from first team duty until November, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has revealed, if it helps the former Wales centre-forward reach full fitness.
Wilder told The Star that Evans, who yet to start a league match since returning to Bramall Lane four months ago, is growing increasingly exasperated by the series of minor injuries which have hindered his progress at the beginning of the campaign.
Although United’s limited options in attack mean Wilder would prefer Evans to play his way back into shape, coaching staff will consider taking more drastic steps after consulting with the Championship club’s physiotherapy and conditioning departments.
“The situation with Ched is that we can’t get him up to full speed,” Wilder said. “We’ve seen cameos and glimpses. He’s not entirely happy with the situation, because he can’t really progress. He’s at about 75 per cent to 80 per cent. “I thought he made a great impact against Derby for us and the same at Middlesbrough. But there’s just something holding him back a little bit. It’s not major, it’s not season ending, it’s just trying to get Ched back to 100 per cent. We might work with him in a slightly different way or something.”
United are preparing for Saturday’s visit to Sunderland fifth in the table after beating Derby 3-1. Evans, aged 28, has appeared in all but one of their seven matches so far this term but is yet to rediscover the form which saw him score 48 goals in 86 starts during is first spell in South Yorkshire.
“Ched is working his socks off, on and off the pitch,” Wilder, the United manager, added. “But he just feels he can’t go full tilt out and, obviously, that something he wants to do and we want him to do as well.”
Evans rejoined United in May after resurrecting his career at Chesterfield following a well-publicised off-the-pitch issue. Having seen his conviction for rape in 2012 quashed by the Court of Appeal, the 28-year-old, who always maintained his innocence, was subsequently found not-guilty at retrial. Although many attributed his injury problems at the Proact Stadium to that lengthy absence from the game, Wilder was dismissive of the notion that signing Evans represented a gamble when his transfer was first announced. Despite acknowledging the player feels he is yet to repay United and their supporters for that show of faith, it is an opinion he still holds today.
“Listen, we took the opportunity to sign Ched, he’s not here for the first two months of the season only,” Wilder said. “That’s the way I look at it. We want just that little bit more than turns him back into the player that we think he will be.
“He’s the most disappointed out of everybody by the way. I’m disappointed but he is really suffering about it. Knowing what the fans think of him, he just wants to repay them 100 per cent and at the moment he can’t.
“If we have to do something that gets him back for November’ish, I’d rather do that and take him out of the firing line. Just to get him right. That’s not letting him down, quite the opposite. He doesn’t want to just cruise through his career, he’s got a lot of things he wants to do and the biggest is to do well for this football club.”
Meanwhile, United have reminded supporters without match tickets not to travel to Sunderland after their away allocation at the Stadium of Light sold-out.