Sheffield United defender Richard Stearman could feature against his former club Wolverhampton Wanderers tomorrow night, Chris Wilder has revealed.
The centre-half, who has missed the last seven games with a hamstring injury, was today described as being “close” to a return during the United manager’s pre-match media conference.
Wilder, who also confirmed striker Clayton Donaldson and wing-back Kieron Freeman are in contention to face Nuno Espírito Santo’s side, said: “Him, Clayton and Richard Stearman are a lot closer than they were at the weekend. We’ll give them every possible opportunity to be involved.”
Stearman’s return to fitness threatens to leave Wilder with a selection dilemma given Jake Wright’s form in the 30-year-old’s absence. Wright excelled himself again during Sunday’s victory over Sheffield Wednesday and, like Freeman’s replacement George Baldock, would count himself unfortunate to be either rested or dropped.
Stearman, who made 234 appearances for Wolves earlier in his career, spent last season on loan at Molineux after being declared surplus to requirements by Fulham. Together with Donaldson, he was arguably United’s highest-profile acquisition of the recent transfer window, despite being far from the most expensive.
“Richard was our number one target throughout the summer and I’m delighted he has signed,” Wilder said at the time. “We’ve been on the look out for a central defender who has played extensively in the Championship and who possesses the qualities and characteristics to fit in with our group.”
Donaldson scored twice on his United debut at Sunderland earlier this month but, like Stearman, has been receiving treatment for a hamstring complaint. Although Leon Clarke, another ex-Wolves player, also claimed a brace at Hillsborough, Wilder’s paucity of attacking options means he could be parachuted straight back into the matchday squad. Billy Sharp, Caolan Lavery, James Hanson and Ched Evans are all some way short of full fitness.
Despite failing to divulge the exact nature of his condition at the time, Wilder explained Freeman missed the visit to Hillsborough with a rib problem.
“Kieron took a real whack there,” he said. “But he’s a tough lad and we’ll see how he is.”