Nigel Adkins, the Sheffield United manager, says John Brayford and Florent Cuvelier have proved their character despite failing to make a first-team appearance this season.
The duo, who have been missing since May and December respectively, entered the final stage of their recovery programmes following long-term absences before the League One fixture against Walsall.
Adkins, whose side enter tomorrow’s meeting with Shrewsbury Town 11th in the table, said: “I’ve been really impressed with both of them. It’s been a shame for Flo because John had more of a planned rehabilitation. Flo, on the other hand, has had lots of little niggles along the way.
“Everybody knows what John is about, but Flo is a talented footballer too. It takes a little while, when you’ve been out for a long time, to get back those levels of fitness you are used to.”
Adkins is fond of reminding visitors to his weekly media briefings that coaches learn more about their players in times of adversity than success.
Brayford, who damaged knee ligaments during May’s play-off semi-finals, has taken part in two Professional Development League fixtures recently while Cuvelier’s career at Bramall Lane has been plagued by a series of unrelated complaints. The former Belgium under-21 international was forced to cut short a loan spell at Burton Albion last season due to a hamstring issue.
“John and Flo have dealt with the frustration of being injured, of coming in every day thinking you aren’t seeing any light at the end of the tunnel,” Adkins added.
“But you take it one step at a time and it’s akin to playing football.
“You do everything you can, learn the lessons and work on building hard into the next game.”
“We will be in on Sunday for our usual debrief, then begin preparing for Shrewsbury.”