Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has labelled John Fleck and Paul Coutts as the best midfielders in League One.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game against Charlton Athletic, the 49-year-old acknowledged their performances this season have been a major factor behind his team’s march to the top of the table with only nine matches remaining.
“They’ve been outstanding, the best two midfield players in the league,” Wilder said. “You come across a lot of good midfielders in this division but I’d be hard pressed to name two better than those. Both on and off the ball.
“I’m talking individually and as a partnership. Good players make good sides but good players also play in good sides.
“They’re both outstanding footballers but they are prepared to tackle, put their foot in and do the hard yards as well. They are the two stand-out central midfielders in this division for me.”
Coutts has cemented a place in Wilder’s starting eleven despite being placed on the transfer list following his appointment in May. Fleck, who started his career with Rangers, joined United after leaving Coventry City during the close season and is now reproducing the type of displays which once prompted Steven Davis, his former team mate north of the border, to describe his as a potential Ibrox “great”.
“Couttsy has done his work off the ball too,” Wilder added. “Maybe in the past he’s been accused of being good on the ball but not so great off it. That’s not the case, he’s done that here and John has too.”
United enter the meeting with Karl Robinson’s side eight points clear of second-placed Fleetwood Town and nine ahead of Bolton Wanderers in third. Wilder revealed last night that Mark Duffy is available for selection after recovering from a knee injury. Caolan Lavery, who scored during Tuesday’s victory over Swindon Town, has also been given the all-clear to play following a slight hamstring complaint.
“I’ve never set a points total,” Wilder said. “Either on or off the record. It’s just about accumulating as many as we can. And, if we do get up, then I still don’t expect my team to get the speedos on. Because we’ve got a commitment to see it right through until the end. That’s the mentality of us all.”
“You can’t set targets because you don’t know if a high or low points total is going to be required. It’s just about grinding it out although I don’t think that’s the best word because we’re playing well.”
Robinson yesterday expressed fears that defender Lewis Page could miss the trip to South Yorkshire after damaging a hamstring during Charlton’s draw with Bradford City in midweek.