Sheffield United could be forced to consider a change of approach in their battle to overcome the loss of this key player

Sheffield United have stepped-up their attempts to unearth an ‘in-house; solution to the problem created by Jack O’Connell’s absence through injury, as their hopes of entering the transfer market before Sunday’s Premier League meeting with Fulham appear to recede.

Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 6:00 am

With O’Connell in danger of missing the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to cure a long-standing knee complaint, Chris Wilder had identified Terence Kongolo, the Huddersfield Town defender, as a candidate to provide cover and competition for Jack Robinson - the only remaining left footed centre-half at the United manager’s disposal.

However, with Kongolo now seemingly destined to join this weekend’s visitors to Bramall Lane, Wilder and his coaching staff could be forced to adopt a different approach should Robinson also become unavailable for selection. Another player known to interest Wilder - Ben Davies - shows no sign of being sold by Preston North End, despite entering the final stages of his present contract.

Both Davies, who progressed through the youth system at Deepdale, and Kongolo, previously of Feyenoord and AS Monaco, are both thought to have been interested in exploring possible moves to South Yorkshire.

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If, as seems increasingly likely, United decide not to recruit a direct replacement for O’Connell ahead of Friday’s deadline for top-flight clubs to sign players from the English Football League, Wilder could consider deploying Enda Stevens at the heart of his rearguard in the event Robinson is also ruled-out of action, with Max Lowe taking over at wing-back. Alternatively, Wilder might take the decision to ditch the 3-5-2 formation he has employed throughout much of his reign in favour of a flat back four, which would enable Stevens to remain out wide.

Kongolo, capped four times by Holland at international level, moved to England from France two years ago and has been told he can leave The John Smith’s Stadium if Town receive a fee of around £8m. That is believed to be the amount they still owe Monaco following Kongolo’s departure.

O’Connell, a member of the squads Wilder has led to promotion from both League One and the Championship, is recovering from his operation at United’s Steelphalt Academy training complex although medical staff have yet to set an exact date for his return to competitive action.

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Jack O'Connell could miss the rest of Sheffield United's season: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

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Chris Wilder is preparing his team to face Fulham on Sunday: Simon Bellis/Sportimage