Billy Sharp is convinced Ched Evans, his fellow centre-forward, has an important role to play as Sheffield United chase back to back promotions.
Despite being plagued by an ankle injury since rejoining the club during the close season, Evans returned to action last month following surgery and immediately won Chris Wilder’s respect for displaying “excellent determination” and “commitment to the cause” during games against Leicester City, Fulham and Ipswich Town.
Although the United manager conceded ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Nottingham Forest that improving his match fitness is now the 29-year-old’s immediate priority, Sharp said: “Ched can be a really important player for us. of that I’ve got absolutely no doubt.
“He’s done really well in the games he’s been involved in since getting his ankle sorted out. He works hard, he puts himself about and, coupled with what we all know he can do when he’s firing on all cylinders, that’s really good to see.”
Evans, the former Wales international, scored 48 goals in only 86 starts during his first spell at Bramall Lane between 2009 and 2012.
He signed a three year contract with United less than a month after they won the League One title but, after missing a chunk of their summer training camp in Spain, has made only 13 appearances since.
“I was really impressed by Ched,” Wilder, who handed him a rare start against Ipswich Town nine days ago, said. “In my opinion, he gave us a real physical presence in attack and made a nuisance of himself. he kept their defenders occupied.
“He ran himself into the ground and that’s why we gave him 65 minutes in the development squad afterwards, because naturally he needs to build up his levels and you only do that by putting minutes uder your belt. That’s something he’s going to really benefit from.”
“For every single game, we pick a team and a bench we think gives us the best possible opportunity,” Wilder added. “So it’s good to have these options available to us. The more flexibility we have to do that, the better as far as I’m concerned.”