Sheffield United could revise plans to sign a replacement for John Brayford after a specialist dismissed fears the defender could be set to miss the entire 2015/16 campaign, writes James Shield.
Nigel Clough, the League One club’s manager, had indicated he might be forced to redraft this summer’s target list if Brayford, a January signing from Cardiff City, was ruled-out for a year or more.
However with experts in London predicting his damaged knee ligament should heal by Christmas, coaching staff at Bramall Lane will meet to decide whether there are enough options within the present first-team squad to cover until Christmas.
“John went to see a specialist in London earlier this week and the results were possibly the best case scenario in a serious situation because we feared that it could be up to 12 months or beyond,” Clough said.
“Fortunately, he doesn’t need an operation, he will be managed by our very capable medical team and we hope to have him firing on all cylinders again by Christmas.”
Craig Alcock, who like Jay McEveley can also operate at centre-half, impressed Clough with his performances towards the end of last season while midfielder Ryan Flynn has performed capably in the full-back role.
With Brayford, barring any unforeseen complications, scheduled to return over the festive period, United are expected to press ahead with their search for two centre-halves and a centre-forward despite acknowledging there can be no repeat of the capricious selection policy which contributed towards their failure to gain promotion last term.
Clough acknowledged he will seek to address that weakness following Monday’s play-off semi-final second leg against Swindon Town. Brayford suffered his injury during the first-leg four days earlier at Bramall Lane and, after attempting to push himself through the pain barrier, was withdrawn at half-time.
“John loves the Club, he was gutted that he was unable to take part in the second leg at Swindon,” Clough said. “He was a major loss for us in that game, without a doubt, but our focus now turns to getting him right and back to his very best later in the year.”
Brayford, aged 27, has made 23 appearances for United since leaving Wales. He was a member of the squad which reached the last four of the FA Cup two seasons ago after initially arriving on loan.