Nigel Adkins, the Sheffield United manager, is prepared to coax James Wallace back into action after receiving glowing recommendations about the midfielder’s capabilities from senior members of Bramall Lane’s coaching staff.
Adkins was briefed on Wallace’s progress, coupled with the reasons behind his debilitating injury record, before the League One club’s senior players reported back for training nearly a fortnight ago.
The 23-year-old has made only 12 appearances since joining United from Tranmere Rovers, where Ronnie Moore described him as a top-flight player in the making, last season.
Colleagues who witnessed Wallace’s skills at close quarters supported the now Hartlepool chief’s claims during meetings with Adkins before a recent bonding exercise at a spa resort in Leicestershire.
“James Wallace has trained with us,” Adkins confirmed. “He is a talented player who we need to help and encourage to get his career back on track.”
Wallace faces a test of his physical and psychological strength as he approaches a potentially pivotal moment of his career. Another injury-plagued campaign, following a similarly tough spell at Prenton Park, could make it difficult for him to realise the potential which once prompted Everton to offer him a long-term contract.
Wallace rejected that proposal to pursue regular football elsewhere but Nigel Clough, Adkins’ predecessor, revealed officials at Goodison Park had insisted he should “jump at the chance” to recruit their former protege 13 months ago.
Although United will use the transfer window to rebalance their squad - Adkins and his staff are understood to believe it is weighted heavily towards midfielders - Wallace’s position is thought to be safe given his standing within the game.
It remains unclear whether he will take part in this weekend’s friendly at Ilkeston - arranged as part of the deal which delivered Che Adams to South Yorkshire - or focus on his rehabilitation.
“I said I wanted to make sure there’s a clean slate for everybody,” Adkins replied when asked about his plans for the transfer market. “That’s important because the players have shown us great honesty. It’s vital that, moving forward, we assess what we have got.”