Paul Coutts is on course to declare himself fit for Sheffield United’s opening match of the new Championship campaign, manager Chris Wilder has revealed.
The midfielder, who has been absent since breaking a leg in November, will begin pre-season training at the Steelphalt Academy on Monday after impressing coaching staff with the speed of his recovery.
Confirming Coutts could make his long-awaited return to action when United host as yet unnamed opposition at Bramall Lane on July 24, Wilder also stated the 29-year-old will join his team mates in Portugal ahead of a friendly against Maritimo two weeks earlier.
“Paul is really good,” Wilder said. “I’m not going to say he’ll step in straight away but he’s coming to Portugal.
“I’m not saying he’s going to be doing everything straight away but he’ll be doing the majority of stuff. It’s not an unrealistic target for him to be involved on the opening day. Which is great for us.”
United, who came within a whisker of reaching the play-offs last term, are scheduled to discover their fixture schedule tomorrow morning when the EFL release its 2018/19 programme. Coutts’ passing range and ability to dictate the tempo of games makes him a key member of a squad bolstered by Dean Henderson’s arrival on loan from Manchester United earlier this week.
Wilder, whose side play their final warm-up match against Doncaster Rovers on July 27, added: “Going into our home fixture in July, we’re looking at him being involved. If not, he’ll be involved at Doncaster on the Friday which is great news for us.”
Wilder, speaking at the Steelphalt Academy earlier today, also reiterated Ched Evans remains part of his plans despite acknowledging the centre-forward could be loaned-out to “get games” after a series of fitness issues last season.
“We are still looking at Ched’s situation,” he said. “There is a thought process that he needs to play 20 games between now and Christmas. There might be a situation, like David Brooks, where he comes back and goes straight in. He wants to play and, if he comes back how we feel he might come back, then that’s great for us all. But if he does go out on loan, it’s no disrespect to him.”