James Wallace has been told that he will not be recalled ahead of schedule if Sheffield United reach the League One play-offs, writes James Shield.
The midfielder’s absence has been cited by Nigel Clough as a major factor behind his team’s failure to challenge for automatic promotion following an injury-plagued debut season at Bramall Lane.
However, with their hopes of competing at Championship level next season still very much alive ahead of this weekend’s visit to Leyton Orient, the United manager has reassured Wallace that he does not plan to exacerbate the issue by selecting him until medical staff give the all-clear.
“James has been working really hard to get back and he’s desperate to be involved again,” Clough said. “It goes without saying that we want him involved again as quickly as possible too because he is a quality, quality player.
“But, even though we know what he’s capable of bringing to this team because he’s shown in the past, what we aren’t going to do is put him in too early and risk something happening again. That wouldn’t be fair on James and it wouldn’t be right for us as a club either.”
“James had a little set-back not so long ago,” Clough added. “But that’s no unusual when you’ve been out for a while.
“If it means getting him ready so that he can enjoy a proper pre-season then so be it.”
“No matter what else happens this season, there’s no doubt in our minds that he’ll really benefit from that anyway. Being able to get up to speed with the rest of the lads will do him the power of good.”
Wallace has made 13 appearances for United since leaving Tranmere Rovers during the close season. Ronnie Moore, his former manager at Prenton Park, described the 23-year-old as “potentially one of the best in his position” outside of the top-flight soon after his arrival in South Yorkshire.
“James came through at Everton and, when we spoke to people there, they said ‘take him’ straight away,” Clough added. “And we did because that just confirmed what we already knew.”