Sheffield United: Wait to discover if Republic of Ireland answer John Egan call
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Egan, who has featured in all of United’s matches so far this season, completed last night’s friendly against Norway in Dublin ahead of the trip to Ta’ Qali.
Heckingbottom told The Star before the pause in the domestic fixture schedule for the World Cup in Qatar that he had held “conversations” with the likes of Stephen Kenny and Greece’s Gus Poyet about protecting members of his squad ahead of next month’s return to league action. His concerns, which saw George Baldock omitted from Poyet’s plans for games with Hungary and Malta, stem from the number of injuries United have sustained since August. That has forced some members of Heckingbottom’s team, including the 29-year-old, to compete whilst undergoing treatment for complaints which might otherwise have seen them granted leave of absence.
Egan, the Irish captain, saw his men beaten by Stale Solbakken’s side at the Aviva Stadium when two set piece goals, claimed by Leo Ostigard and Ohi Omoijuanfo, bookended Alan Browne’s strike.
“We attacked Norway where we knew we could get at them,” said Kenny, defending the tactics the hosts adopted. “I don’t accept that we would have been better off just going forward at will. We lost because we gave away two set-piece goals. Now we go to Malta which is a different challenge.”
United, who are second in the table, return to action when Huddersfield Town travel to Bramall Lane next month.
Enda Stevens and Ciaran Clark, Egan’s colleagues in South Yorkshire, have both been capped by Ireland but have only recently recovered from complaints which have forced them to miss the majority of the campaign so far. Sander Berge would almost certainly have been drafted by Norway but is still yet to receive the green light from United’s medical staff after being diagnosed with an ankle issue. However, Heckingbottom recently indicated Berge has entered the final stages of his rehabilitation.