Sheffield United manager cautions against expecting key player to return any time soon

Chris Wilder has warned his decision to include Jack O’Connell’s name on the squad list Sheffield United will shortly submit to the Premier League does not mean the centre-half is poised to return from injury.

Sunday, 17th January 2021, 7:00 pm

Instead, despite confirming he plans to select O’Connell among the 25 man roster officials at Bramall Lane must shortly present to competition chiefs, the United manager admitted it is “impossible” to accurately predict when the defender is likely to recover from knee surgery.

Although Wilder’s decision confirms there is a chance O’Connell will feature before the end of the campaign - he was omitted from the register lodged with PL headquarters earlier this term after finally succumbing to the long-standing complaint - the 53-year-old explained: “Due to the nature (of the injury), it’s difficult if not impossible to put a date on things.

“He’s working extremely hard behind the scenes and he’s coming along, which is no surprise given what he’s putting in.

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Chris Wilder is refusing to put a date on when Jack O'Connell will return to action for Sheffield United: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

“But, like a few of the issues we’ve got, you just never really know until the start doing the physical contact stuff in training. It’s still a contact sport, or so we like to think here, and so they’ve got to be able to perform that part of their job. As the people looking after him will tell you, often it’s only when the lads get involved in that side of things that you know exactly where they are and when it (the comeback date) is likely to be if everything continues to go well.”

O’Connell, who after progressing through Blackburn Rovers’ youth system joined United from Brentford, was a key member of the side which finished ninth in the table last term - forcing himself into contention for an England call-up with a series of commanding displays at the heart of Wilder’s rearguard. His absence, after medical staff at the Steelphalt Academy decided a problem which had troubled him throughout most of his senior career required addressing properly, has been cited as a major factor behind United’s struggles this term. They are 11 points adrift of safety after being condemned to their 16th defeat of the season by Tottenham Hotspur yesterday.