James Shield’s Sheffield United Column: Blades must strike-off some potential targets

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Injuries are, unfortunately, part and parcel of football.

No player, unless their confidence is absolutely shattered, ever chooses to miss a game due to fitness issues. Even those of us regarded as supreme athletic specimens have been known to tweak a muscle or two.

Nigel Adkins wants his squad to be durable and resolute '�2016 Sport Image all rights reserved

Nigel Adkins wants his squad to be durable and resolute '�2016 Sport Image all rights reserved

(Carrying the shopping and screwing in lightbulbs can be very demanding jobs).

Without wishing to apportion blame to the individuals concerned, however, it’s fair to say that Sheffield United have experienced more than their fair share of fitness issues in recent seasons. Some very talented performers, much to the exasperation of Nigel Adkins and his most recent predecessors, are better known for their medical histories than what they have contributed on the pitch.

It is a situation which has not only contributed to some indifferent results but is also, in my opinion, the second biggest contributory factor behind what the United manager recently described as a “bloated” squad. The first being too many changes to the coaching staff since being relegated in 2011. Or too many ideological lurches to be exact. Injured players are costly, and not only in a sporting sense, because unless there is a ready-made replacement lurking in the academy, a replacement has to be signed. Hence the reason why, despite being short of cover in some positions, United boast a plethora of options elsewhere.

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Beneath his polished exterior, Adkins’ patience with the club’s injury record has clearly been running thin of late. Criticism will invariably be wrapped-up inside a more positive message but, listen to what he says carefully, and it is definitely there.

United, Adkins included, must be absolutely ruthless to solve this problem. Particularly, during their manoeuvres in the transfer market. Potentials targets should be erased from the club’s wanted-list unless they have a proven track record of being available to feature in at least 35 games throughout the course of a campaign. Impact injuries excepted.

There are indications that the penny has finally dropped behind the scenes at Bramall Lane with recent acquisitions such as Billy Sharp, Dean Hammond and David Edgar missing a combined total of 10 fixtures due to medical reasons since August. Or, to put it another way, only 12 per cent of United’s outings so far. A damaged hamstring means Edgar, who has missed some games due to international duty, is responsible for all of those.

Consistent selections, something which has enabled the likes of Burton Albion, Gillingham and Walsall to punch above their weight this term, tend to produce consistently good results. But consistent selections are impossible to achieve if players spend more time on the treatment table than the pitch.

Which might be stating the bleeding obvious to the likes of you and me. But clearly not, the evidence suggests, to others.