Ched Evans and Kieron Freeman are recovering well from surgery, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has confirmed.
Having been plagued by ankle problems since returning to Bramall Lane during the close season, Evans underwent a procedure to clean-up his joint last month while Freeman entered hospital for a series of exploratory tests after dislocating his knee during the recent win over Ipswich Town.
Although both players missed Saturday’s game against Hull City, Wilder explained they will use the international break to continue their rehabilitations ahead of scheduled returns later this year.
“Ched and Kieron are both doing well,” Wilder said. “Ched’s operation was a success and now he’s working hard to get back. Kieron’s was a nasty injury and although it could have been a lot worse, he’s coming along nicely and doing everything that’s being asked of him.”
Although United were told Freeman could be available for selection over the Christmas period, Wilder has refused to clarify when Evans is set to be passed fit. Coaching staff at the Steelphalt Academy are set to put the centre-forward, who scored 42 goals in 77 league starts during his first spell with the club, through a mini pre-season programme before he resumes full-contact training.
“It was the right thing to do,” Wilder said. “Full credit to Ched, he volunteered to play through the pain, even though he clearly wasn’t fit, when we had a few strikers out. That tells you all you need to know about his attitude and how much he is committed to this club. But he wasn’t doing himself justice and it needed to get sorted-out.”
Despite failing to score since rejoining United in May, Wilder and his assistant Alan Knill suspect Evans’ fitness issues can be traced back to his failure to enjoy a full pre-season last summer.
With James Hanson and Clayton Donaldson both featuring in recent squads, the 28-year-old now has enough breathing space to ensure he is not only in peak physical condition, but improve his cardiovascular fitness too.
“When Ched comes back, we want him to be able to show everybody what he’s all about,” Wilder said. “We’ve seen glimpses of it but we want him to be able to show what we know he can do. He was playing through niggles and, in the long-run, that’s no good for him.”
Given that Caolan Lavery is also available for selection, United have the luxury of being able to grant Evans all the time he needs to reach peak condition. But Hanson, whose arrival from Bradford City in January helped them lift the League One title, faces an uncertain future in South Yorkshire after playing less than an hour of senior football for the club this term. Although Stuart McCall, Wilder’s counterpart at Valley Parade has again distanced himself from a move for Hanson, Scunthorpe remain interested in acquiring his services when the transfer window reopens after Christmas. A deal was agreed in principle before August’s deadline only for Wilder to pull-the-plug for fear of leaving United short of attacking options.
With fellow wing-back George Baldock also nursing an injury, United will be keen for Freeman to receive the all-clear as soon as possible but Wilder said: “We won’t take risks with any of these lads. When they are back, we want them to be back to stay, not breaking down again.”