Sheffield United: Jack Robinson's predicament underlines importance of World Cup break

The sight of Jack Robinson injuring a hamstring during their win at Cardiff City underlines why it is so important for Sheffield United to make the right decisions during the World Cup break, Paul Heckingbottom has reminded.
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After failing to take part in any of the visitors’ opening 17 outings so far this term, Robinson’s appearance in the Welsh capital was his fourth start in the space of only 12 days, having completed a full 90 minutes against Bristol City, Rotherham and Burnley.

Having returned to action following a near three month lay-off towards the end of United’s recent trip to West Bromwich Albion, Robinson lasted less than a quarter-of-an-hour being he was forced to be replaced by Ciaran Clark.

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Having confirmed he has granted most members of his first team squad a week off before preparations for December 10th’s clash with Huddersfield Town begin in earnest, Heckingbottom said: “He was stretching it before he went down. He wasn’t 100 percent fit and ready to be doing what he’s been doing but it was a case of needs must. Hopefully we’ll have him back, with plenty of others, when we get back out there again.”

With around a dozen senior players missing the meeting with Mark Hudson’s side, United’s coaching staff have been left with little choice but to increase the workload placed on those who would otherwise have been eased back into action of late. By Heckingbottom’s own admission, it was a policy fraught with risk; helping United climb to second in the table but with Robinson, Jayden Bogle and John Fleck among those to break down soon after recovering from fitness issues. Fellow defenders Rhys Norrington-Davies and Max Lowe are also confined to the treatment room at present, although the latter has a chance of featuring on the team sheet when Huddersfield Town make the short journey to South Yorkshire next month.

With Robinson’s replacement, Clark, only just recovering from an injury himself, Heckingbottom said: “It’s what happens with fatigue. Robbo’s was down to that, I’m sure. He’s gone from zero, missing pre-season, to 90 minutes all the time. We knew what the danger was and we had the same with Rhys and Lowey, because they were the only left siders available at the time before he (Robinson) came back.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence, especially as they are all explosive players with the sprints they do, and the whole game has become much more like that recently. We knew we were walking a tightrope.”

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Although those diagnosed with minor knocks have been excused, many of those requiring more intensive treatment will be required to attend United’s training complex week. Medical staff there hope the pause in the domestic fixture schedule will enable them to get on top of the fitness problems which have plagued Heckingbottom’s team throughout the campaign.

Jack Robinson of Sheffield United looks gutted after being forced off: Darren Staples / SportimageJack Robinson of Sheffield United looks gutted after being forced off: Darren Staples / Sportimage
Jack Robinson of Sheffield United looks gutted after being forced off: Darren Staples / Sportimage

“It’s too early to know (how serious it is) with Jack,” he said. “We’ll take a better look and go from there but, fingers crossed, it’s not too bad and it is just a bit of over-use, which I think is to be expected although we’ve not had a choice.”