Sheffield United: Blades boss explains why he has no problems handing Leon Clarke the armband when captain Billy Sharp goes off

Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has no plans to appoint a new vice-captain after Paul Coutts was ruled-out for the rest of the season through injury.

Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 4:59 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:03 pm
Leon Clarke has worn the captain's armband in the last two games: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

The midfielder acted as Billy Sharp’s unofficial deputy before fracturing his tibia at Burton Albion last month. But, after canvassing the opinions of his staff, Wilder was persuaded the sheer volume of potential candidates means there is no need to select a permanent replacement.

“Couttsy usually took the armband when Billy wasn’t playing or came off,” he explained. “Obviously that’s not going to happen for the foreseeable but there’s no shortage of people capable of doing it.

“Bash (Chris Basham) has done it before and so has Jack (O’Connell). To be honest, if you look at the players we’ve got here and their characters, other than the young lads like Jamal Blackman, David Brooks and Cameron Carter-Vickers, you could choose any of them. Stears (Richard Stearman) is that type of bloke and so is John Fleck. Don’t forget John Lundstram was also captain at Oxford before coming here.”

Leon Clarke, who was last week named as November’s Championship player of the month, stepped into the breach when Sharp dropped to the bench at Millwall 10 days ago. Despite being regarded by many as a surprise choice, Wilder insisted it demonstrated not only the respect Clarke commands in the dressing room but also that his reputation as a loner is a misconception.

“There’s other people in there who take responsibility,” he said.”Leon is a big player in that dressing room. We think, in his own way, Leon can lead by example even though he’s not a pointer and a shouter. He does things in different ways.”

“The captaincy, in that situation, was not an issue,” Wilder added. “The fact there was no obvious choice really pleases me because it tells you something about the leadership qualities we’ve got in the dressing room.”

United, sixth in the Championship table following Friday’s defeat by Bristol City, return to action at Coutts’ former club Preston North End this weekend. Fleck will miss the game as he begins a three match ban. Alex Neil’s side are 10th, five points behind the visitors, after beating Burton Albion 2-1 thanks to goals from Daryl Horgan and Tom Clarke.