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Sheffield United: Blades star tipped to become one of the best in the business

Paul Coutts would grace the Premier League, says Mark Duffy: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Paul Coutts would grace the Premier League, says Mark Duffy: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Mark Duffy says Paul Coutts will excel at the highest level if Sheffield United reach the Premier League next term after describing his team mate as one of the most accomplished midfielder’s in English football.

Speaking before the postponement of Saturday’s game against Burton Albion, Duffy also praised United’s ability to maintain a promotion challenge following the Scot’s season ending injury during November’s corresponding fixture at the Pirelli Stadium.

Admitting that losing Coutts hit United hard at the time, Duffy said: “He is one of the best midfielders not only in this division, but a higher division. You saw against Stoke in pre-season and against Darren Fletcher and Stephen Ireland, they couldn’t get the ball off him and he is like that in training. That sums up the mentality in our team. He’s been a big miss for us.”

Coutts fractured a tibia during a challenge with Marvin Sordell - Chis Wilder later exonerated the Albion player of any blame - and is not expected to recover until later this summer; by which time United hope to be competing in the top-flight. They climbed back into the play-off positions, a point above seventh placed Bristol City, after beating Reading 3-1 on Tuesday night.

Albion, who were dispatched by the same scoreline when United travelled to Staffordshire four months ago, are managed by Wilder’s predecessor Nigel Clough. Several members of his staff, including former United defender John Brayford and operations coordinator Matt Brown, visited Coutts in hospital immediately after that match. A new date for the meeting with Albion will be announced in due course.

Duffy, who spent a year on loan with Albion before moving to Bramall Lane, said: “When you look at how we have performed as individuals for previous clubs, we have just come together and that does down to the gaffer and staff who have identified the players who can do a job for them and they have gelled the team together. Individually, we might not be brilliant, but collectively as a team, it works. We have had players like Couttsy missing as well.”

Coutts was injured during Sheffield United's win over Burton Albion earlier this season

Coutts was injured during Sheffield United's win over Burton Albion earlier this season

Mark Duffy says Coutts has top-flight talent: David Klein/Sportimage

Mark Duffy says Coutts has top-flight talent: David Klein/Sportimage

Coutts is set to return next season after breaking his leg: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Coutts is set to return next season after breaking his leg: Simon Bellis/Sportimage