Chris Wilder lays bare extent of Sheffield United's "ridiculous" fitness issue amid Rhian Brewster injury plan

Chris Wilder desperate for Sheffield United to get handle on "ridiculous" injury situation after Rhian Brewster setback
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Chris Wilder is determined to get to the bottom of the injury problems that have plagued Sheffield United's Premier League struggle this season after Rhian Brewster suffered his latest fitness setback last week. The former Liverpool man damaged a hamstring in training, ruling him out of Monday night's home hammering against Arsenal.

A recurrence of a hamstring issue has already ruled out Rhys Norrington-Davies for the remainder of United's campaign and although the similar absence of Max Lowe was a little bit more of a freak injury, the defender damaging ankle ligaments blocking a shot away at Luton, Cameron Archer, Oli McBurnie and Ben Brereton Diaz have all missed game-time in recent weeks with muscle injuries.

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A recent study by Premier Injuries found that United have lost more than 1,000 days to injury this season so far, with only Newcastle, Brentford, Brighton and Chelsea losing players for longer. While the other four have deeper squads that can cope, however, the injuries have had a real effect on United's threadbare resources and the issue of their fitness record even led to an independent investigation being launched earlier in the campaign.

While many fans laid the blame at the door of former boss Paul Heckingbottom and his coaching methods, the issues have persisted since his departure in December and even the installation of a new pitch at Shirecliffe, at a cost of around £2m, has not turned the tide. Brewster's most recent setback is the latest in a series of training-ground injuries in recent years and Wilder said: "It’s just another part that we need to get to the bottom of. I think we’re close on having 50 soft tissue injuries between now and the end of the season, which is ridiculous.

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"So there’s all sorts of things that we need to look at in that. Whether it’s availability, durability, robustness. We’re making physical substitutions because some can only play for a set amount of time and he can’t do this and he can’t do that. The job’s hard enough as it, the job’s hard enough in the Premier League and the job’s hard enough when you’re looking at that situation. So we need to get that right and we need to get it right for Rhian as well.

"He did recovery days and we trained Thursday morning and he just went down in a heap, having taken a shot. It was totally innocuous, then he stayed down and then I think we’re all looking at each other and thinking: ‘What’s gone off here?’ Obviously the physio comes on and looks at him and he’s had an issue with his hamstring again. So we’ve got to get that right for the boy’s point of view as well as our point of view."

Monday night's Arsenal defeat was the latest nail in United's relegation coffin and with the Blades sleepwalking towards an instant return to the Championship, Brewster may not be risked even if he does recover from his latest fitness blow before the end of what is shaping up to be a miserable campaign. "We’ve got to take a medium and longer-term risk-and-reward view now with Rhian," Wilder added.

"There has to be a plan for him, there has to be some sort of structure in place for him to give himself an opportunity. Whether it’s the mechanics of his body or it’s something else, we need, as a club in conjunction with Rhian, to get that right, for him and us. He’ll come through it, but he needs all our support and he’ll certainly get that."

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