Sheffield United: Striker boosts promotion hopes after a series of stunning displays in training
Sheffield United’s hopes of promotion are set to receive a major boost after Stuart McCall, the club’s assistant manager, revealed Oli McBurnie is finally over the health problems which have plagued him this season.
The Scotland centre-forward has been a peripheral figure in recent months, making only five substitute appearances since Paul Heckingbottom’s appointment in November.
With David McGoldrick joining Rhian Brewster on the casualty list ahead of today’s game against Huddersfield Town, teenage striker Daniel Jebbison could be set to partner Billy Sharp in attack at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Sheffield Wednesday: Unsavoury scenes as George Byers and Jamie Smith clash after Peterborough United substitution
Sheffield Wednesday: Reece James apologised to teammates - will be fined after red card
Sheffield United: Loan bids received for attacking duo
‘100% frustration’ – What Sheffield Wednesday’s Darren Moore said on George Byers touchline fracas
Sheffield United: Former Nottingham Forest and Olympiakos target Max Lowe comes under the manager's microscope
But McCall told The Star that McBurnie is also pushing for a recall to the starting eleven after impressing with his “hunger” and “mentality” during training.
“Over the past couple of weeks, I’m seeing the Oli that I used to know when he was a young pup with Bradford City,” McCall, who both played and managed at Valley Parade, said. “He’s that lad again that I used to remember banging in the goals and then getting into the international squad.
“He’s had his problems recently, as everyone knows. But over the past two or three weeks, he’s been getting his fitness levels up and his hunger is definitely back.
“The most impressive thing of all, though, is that he’s just hitting the back of the net all the time in the sessions that we’re putting on during the week. You can’t help but notice how well he’s finishing.
“On top of that, and maybe this is no coincidence, he’s also in the best place mentally that I’ve known him for a long time. And that’s great to see.”
Signed from Swansea City in the summer of 2019, McBurnie went a long way towards repaying his £20m fee by scoring six times as United mounted an unlikely challenge for Europe under their former manager Chris Wilder. But injury and illness have combined to stall McBurnie’s progress this term, as they attempt to bounce back from last season’s relegation.
After making a difficult start to the new campaign, United travel to Town only a point outside of the play-off positions and four behind their latest opponents despite having three matches in hand on Carlos Corberan’s fifth placed side.
“Since we came in, it’s been stop start for Oli,” McCall said. “First he was having to self-isolate because of Covid. Then he actually caught Covid and after recovering from that, he got tonsillitis.
“It was never-ending for the lad. One thing after another.
“We’ve been careful how we’ve used him because we don’t want to take him from ‘here to there’ too quickly and end up losing him again. But over the last fortnight, he’s done brilliant.”
With Brewster undergoing surgery to correct a hamstring issue earlier this week, United last night discovered that McGoldrick could also be set for a lengthy absence after damaging a calf during Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion.
Confirming the former Republic of Ireland international is “going for a scan”, McCall said: “Unfortunately it looks a sore one. We will find out in the next 24 hours. It’s another disappointment after Rhian.
“Didzy is such an integral part of the group - popular - and he finds those pockets of space. It looks like he is going to be out for a wee while.”