Sheffield United star's social media presence suggests big breakthrough is coming
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Sheffield United have used social media in the past to lay clues about a player’s conditioning. And, if the latest posts on their accounts are anything to go by, then expect Rhian Brewster to be fit and nearly firing on all cylinders by the time the new Premier League season begins next month.
The next 12 months are absolutely pivotal for the centre-forward, both on a personal basis and in terms of his career at the club. United’s record transfer signing, Brewster has started only 31 games since completing a £23.5m move from Liverpool three years ago. Plagued by hamstring injuries for nearly two of those, the youngster needs to command a regular place in Paul Heckingbottom’s first choice eleven to convince not only himself but also those around him that he is capable of fulfilling the potential which persuaded United to make such a sizeable investment.
“If anyone deserves a break, it would definitely be Rhi that I’d choose,” Heckingbottom told The Star following his latest injury setback. “He works so hard, he lifts everyone around him. Now he’s the one who needs a bit luck.”
Brewster’s regular appearances on United’s Twitter and Instagram feeds since Heckingbottom’s squad return to training this week suggest, finally, he might be over the worst. Unavailable for selection since the end of October, he had appeared set to recover towards the end of last term only to suffer what Heckingbottom described as “a little issue” which put paid to those hopes.
United will be reluctant to make public predictions about whether he will be ready for action, when Crystal Palace travel to Bramall Lane on August 12th. But by making him the posterboy of their pre-season preparations, there appears to be a chance.
Together with Rhys Norrington-Davies, who has also been sidelined with a similar complaint, Brewster could turn out to be a vitally important member of a squad which faces a battle to retain its PL status. Despite his conditioning issues, he possesses the speed over short and medium length distances to trouble top-flight defenders. And pace, assessing the options currently at their disposal, is something United lack. Particularly in attacking areas, where neither Oli McBurnie or even the exceptional Iliman Ndiaye are explosively quick.
Brewster was showing signs of rediscovering the form which once convinced Jurgen Klopp to label him “exceptional” before succumbing to injury during a win over West Bromwich Albion. Even though he sat out the rest of United’s march towards promotion, Brewster still compares favourably - in a statistical sense - to many of his peers. He is among the top one percent of strikers when it comes to making tackles and enjoyed more touches in the opposition penalty area than three quarters of those. Brewster’s blocks, interceptions and aerial ability also score favourably. The first two of those could make him indispensable to a manager who likes his side to press hard and press high.
United must handle Brewster with care. But the focus on him now, as their videographers and PR gurus whip up the sense of anticipation among supporters, reflects not only his progress but also his importance to the cause.