What Chris Wilder said about blooding Sheffield United's young stars for rest of Premier League season
Chris Wilder is expected to resist the temptation to thrust Sheffield United's young stars into Premier League combat despite seeing his side's already-slim survival hopes take a possibly fatal blow.
Saturday's defeat at Fulham was United's 20th in their 25 league games so far, and a miserable season became worse with the sight of Chris Basham limping off with a hamstring injury at Craven Cottage.
Basham was assessed this week at Shirecliffe but at the very least, is expected to miss out this weekend when United face Liverpool - the first league game he will have missed since the Blades were promoted.
That means that Chris Wilder's first-choice back three are all injured - John Egan and Jack O'Connell are also sidelined - and with the Blades 14 points from safety with only 13 games remaining, some sections of their fanbase have began to call for some young players to be blooded ahead of a probable Championship promotion bid.
The likes of Zak Brunt, Iliman Ndiaye and Kyron Gordon have all featured on the United teamsheet in recent weeks, while Antwoine Hackford became United's youngest ever Premier League player when he came off the bench at Crystal Palace.
But Wilder, speaking after his side's 1-0 defeat at Fulham, admitted: “You sometimes hear stuff about putting the kids in. This isn’t a time for young kids in that situation.
“First off, they need to be good enough for top-flight football against some of the best in the business.
"And if they aren’t, if they aren’t ready and right, then we know what can happen and how that can influence them going forward.
“I’m not sure what it will be yet, but I’ll have to try and formulate something from somewhere. I don’t know what that is but we will be competitive.”
Phil Jagielka came in for the injured Egan at Craven Cottage while United finished the game with a back three of George Baldock, Ethan Ampadu and Kean Bryan.
O'Connell recently returned to training, but Wilder is expected to exercise caution with the influential defender when he makes his comeback from a knee problem that forced him to go under the knife earlier in the season.