Nigel Adkins has vowed not to gamble with John Brayford’s fitness after watching the Sheffield United defender score a major victory in his battle against injury.
Brayford, who has not made a competitive appearance for the League One club since damaging knee ligament during last season’s play-off semi-finals, completed 45 minutes of yesterday’s under-21 fixture against Coventry City.
The defender suffered a minor set-back during his previous outing for Chris Morgan’s side and Adkins said: “We won’t rush John or, for that matter, any other player coming back from injury. By doing that, we’ll hopefully limit the chances of them missing more games or getting another problem of a similar nature.
“The physio and fitness department here works exceptionally hard. The lads reap the benefits of that.
“The most important thing, from both our and John’s point of view, is that he is making progress and moving in the right direction. He is a very good player, as everyone knows.”
Brayford, signed from Cardiff City midway through the previous campaign, is expected to become a key figure in Adkins’ starting eleven when he receives to all-clear to return. Recognised as one of the most accomplished defenders in the division, the full-back can also operate at centre-half if desired, providing United with a greater flexibility should a selection crisis loom.
Adkins, who is expected to strengthen the options at his disposal during the January transfer window, has rarely been able to name an unchanged team since taking charge in June and attributes United’s chequered form with their enforced, inconsistent selections.
“It’s not an excuse,” Adkins said. “We don’t make those but it is, definitely, a reason. A factor which must be taken into account. And, as most people can appreciate, there is a difference.”
“We have a programme in place for John,” he added. “And this game was part of that, it’s part of that process.
“He’s been joining in some sessions with the rest of the lads, as I explained a while back, and we’ll be looking to build that up moving forward. We want John to have a core level of fitness when he becomes available because that increases the chances of him staying available for selection.”
United, who were leading 1-0 when Brayford was withdrawn, went on to beat City 3-0 at the Look Local Stadium, Stocksbridge. Diego De Girolamo, scored twice after entering the fray as a second-half substitute while CJ Hamilton was also on target. The result means Morgan’s side has now won five of its last six outings.