Sheffield United: Jack O’Connell injury latest after defender’s “not far away” hope

Paul Heckingbottom, the Sheffield United manager, has admitted it is “not on the immediate agenda” for Jack O’Connell to return to running, despite the injured defender insisting that milestone “wasn’t far away” back in August.
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O’Connell has not kicked a ball for the Blades in over two years as he battles for fitness following two operations on his injured knee, and has been posting regular updates from a bootcamp gym in Bolton throughout the recent World Cup break.

Back in August, when he appeared as a pundit on United’s in-house SUTV channel, he said he “wasn’t far away” from getting back running but isn’t yet at that stage, according to boss Heckingbottom.

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“Not yet,” the United manager said. “That’s always the aim but it’s not on the immediate agenda with him, no.”

O’Connell has previously admitted he is not setting timescales for his return, while teammate Oli McBurnie hailed the defender’s “incredible” mentality. The left-sided defender was a key part of United’s rise from League One to ninth in the Premier League but is out of contract at the end of the season.

Heckingbottom also described Rhian Brewster as “good” as he battles back from hamstring surgery, alongside Rhys Norrington-Davies, while Daniel Jebbison is at the “back end” of his rehabilitation process. “I’d like to think he’ll be training with us soon,” Heckingbottom said.

Jack O’Connell of Sheffield United: SportimageJack O’Connell of Sheffield United: Sportimage
Jack O’Connell of Sheffield United: Sportimage

Another key absence in recent weeks has been midfielder John Fleck, who recovered from a broken leg but hasn’t been seen since going off early in United’s home defeat to Rotherham United before the break. “He took contact in that game,” Heckingbottom explained.

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“We’ve had the results of the scans, the bone’s fine and healing. But there’s a lot of fluid around it from the contact and it’s just shaking that off. He took another bang when he trained a couple of weeks back and you could see him hobbling.

“He was trying to carry on but I had to tell him to go in. It’s almost as if we have to bide our time with that one and when the fluid and soreness has gone, we can start again.”