James Wallace will not be urged to make an early return from injury, Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough has insisted, despite admitting his team are missing the midfielder’s “dynamism” and “presence.”
The former Tranmere Rovers captain’s absence has coincided with United’s most difficult period of the League One season so far with last week’s defeat by Port Vale, coupled with the postponement of Sunday’s game against Scunthorpe, seeing them slip 14 points behind the automatic promotion places.
But despite hearing Wallace described as a “top flight player in the making” by Ronnie Moore, who oversaw his development at Prenton Park, Clough told The Star: “We can’t afford to take any risks with James. We won’t look to bring him back in until we are absolutely sure that he’s ready.
“It would be unfair on the player and unfair on the football club as a whole because we want him out there firing on all cylinders. Not working within himself because he fears having a spell out again.
“James is too important, too good a player to mess him about like that. And, to be honest, I actually think he’s going to benefit from having a proper rest.”
Wallace, aged 23, has been plagued by a series of niggling fitness problems since recovering from a serious knee complaint before arriving at Bramall Lane earlier this year. Having progressed through the ranks at Everton before crossing the River Mersey in 2012, Sunday’s FA Cup third round tie with Queens Park Rangers will be the 22nd game he has missed after electing against signing a new contract with Rovers.
Ben Davies, another of United’s summer signings, is also recuperating in the treatment room after damaging a foot and Clough said: “When those two come back it will be like having two new faces come in. And, make no mistake, they are important players for us too. Players with real quality and, despite being different ages, good experience.
“To be honest, I actually think James will be even better than ever after this time out. He’ll be able to make sure he’s exactly right and work on his fitness levels before coming back into the team.
“Technically, he’s very strong. But he’s got a real dynamism and physical presence about him which can be vital in this division.”
“Getting Ben back will be a real boost too,” Clough added. “He can fill a variety of different roles for us, including full-back, and fill them well.
“That gives us options when it comes to selection.”