Reece Brown should not be judged until he reaches full fitness, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has insisted.
The former Barnsley and Bury defender joined United on a short-term contract last month after leaving Gigg Lane.
Brown made his first start since March during the recent Checkatrade Trophy tie against Walsall and the 24-year-old is again set to be named in the squad which faces Port Vale this weekend.
Assessing his performance during the Northern Group H fixture, Wilder said: “Reece was cramping-up a bit and, to be honest, that probably helped them (Walsall) score one of their goals. But, in fairness to the lad, it’s only to be expected.
“He’s not spent much time out there on the pitch recently.
“He’s a fit lad but he’s working hard to get that real fitness and sharpness which only comes with being involved with a squad on a day to day basis and playing games.”
Brown completed a fortnight-long trial at United’s Steelphalt Academy training complex before being handed a permanent contract.
He will discover if it is being renewed in January when, according to Wilder, a more accurate assessment of his worth can be made.
Brown started his career at Manchester United alongside older brother Wes, has played just over an hour of football so far this term following the postponement of last weekend’s League One meeting with Walsall.
“We do judge people really early these days,” Wilder said. “I don’t believe in it but I understand that’s going to happen, even if I don’t particularly like it.
“I don’t think all of them are playing at the top of their form yet but they are all good, decent players.
“They’ll be better for some of the experiences, I’m sure of that.
“We believe in the players and they are here for the long-term.”
“We want to let these players grow, grow into the club and produce performances,” Wilder added.
“That’s part and parcel of stepping into a football club as a player, that it doesn’t always happen in the first few months.”
United, who are unbeaten in their last seven League One outings, hope another new arrival, Caolan Lavery, will be available for selection against Vale.
The centre-forward missed the their draw at Fleetwood Town and defeat by Jon Whitney’s side after being diagnosed with a strained ankle ligament.
Wilder, who had predicted Lavery was set to return for the league fixture with Walsall until it was rescheduled due to international call-ups, said: “We’ll make all the proper checks before putting him back in there because it’s important, for the players themselves and us as a team, that we don’t take risks by doing it too early.
“Until they are totally okay.”