Sheffield United's Iliman Ndiaye ticks another box required to be a top-level player

Iliman Ndiaye has demonstrated another of the key attributes required to reach the highest level of the game, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom insisted last night, after already proving his talent.
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Ndiaye, the Championship club’s leading goalscorer so far this season, is expected to make his 29th appearance of the campaign when Hull City visit Bramall Lane tonight after seemingly recovering from the leg injury which had threatened his involvement.

Speaking ahead of the contest with Liam Rosenior’s side, which could see second placed United stretch their unbeaten run in all competitions to nine games, Heckingbottom told The Star that Ndiaye’s powers of recovery make him an even more formidable player.

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“You don’t want to tempt fate with Iliman,” he said. “But he’s always worked and trained hard, which means he’s put himself in a position to be available more often than not. You could be the best player in the world but, if you’re not playing more than you are, then all that ability suddenly isn’t worth as much is it.”

“Genetics can come into it,” Heckingbottom added. “And Iliman is probably fortunate with those. But he’s always worked hard away from here to make sure that he’s in the best possible condition as well, which does make a difference.”

Despite leaving the ground with an ice pack wrapped around his leg following last weekend’s win over Stoke City, Ndiaye returned to training on Wednesday after being examined by medical staff. The Senegal international netted his 10th of the campaign against Alex Neil’s side and, having forged a prolific partnership with Oli McBurnie earlier this term, will have been delighted to learn his fellow centre-forward could return to the bench after making progress in his battle to overcome an ankle complaint. Defender Ciaran Clark, on loan from Newcastle, is also “back on the grass” according to Heckingbottom although George Baldock and Enda Stevens are set to be out “for a matter of weeks”.

The old Sheffield United gang could soon be back together: Andrew Yates / SportimageThe old Sheffield United gang could soon be back together: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
The old Sheffield United gang could soon be back together: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

United moved 11 points clear of third-placed Watford after beating Stoke 3-1, despite also being without the likes of Rhian Brewster, Rhys Norrington-Davies and John Fleck. Jayden Bogle netted twice during that fixture, after Ndiaye had fired United in front.