Daniel Lafferty has kept himself in contention for a return to Sheffield United’s starting eleven by impressing coaching staff with his unselfish approach.
Despite being signed as a wing-back, the Northern Ireland international has been deployed at both centre-half and in midfield of late as Chris Wilder looks to plot a course through a crucial period in the fixture schedule.
Wilder, the United manager, highlighted Lafferty’s response to a request before last month’s FA Cup tie against Leicester City as evidence of the defender’s willingness to put the club’s interests before his own, despite finding it difficult to dislodge Enda Stevens.
“Danny has been unfortunate because of Enda’s consistent performances right the way through,” he said. “But at Leicester, I went ‘Danny, we need you in the middle of the park.’ He went ‘Yes boss’ straight away. The same goes for Bash (Chris Basham) when we’ve moved him about.”
Lafferty (pictured) could enjoy another opportunity when United face Nottingham Forest at Bramall Lane tomorrow after watching Tuesday’s victory over Burton Albion from the bench. Having shoehorned Lafferty’s name into conversation during his recent pre-match media briefings, the 28-year-old appears to be at the forefront of Wilder’s thoughts.
“To have that type of selfless attitude is priceless for a manager, it really is,” he said. “They are selfless players who are prepared to do a job for the football club. And you never know what is around the corner.
“We’ve had to work hard to build that but I enjoy working with these lads. I’ve got a good sense of pride in my players.”
Stevens was last week named in the Republic of Ireland’s provisional squad for their forthcoming friendly against Turkey after impressing for United this term. His team mates Lee Evans and David Brooks have been called-up by Wales and Wales under-21’s respectively, with new manager Ryan Giggs confirming the latter’s omission from the senior group is designed to aid his recovery from glandular fever. Wales under-21’s, coached by former United captain Robert Page, travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina while the men face gruelling trips to China and California, where they will face Mexico.
“Enda has adapted to Championship level really well,” Wilder, who signed him from Portsmouth, said. “He’s performed really well and been consistent. But we want everyone to feel challenged, which they are. The lads behind them are pushing hard. We want difficult decisions. I never want them to be easy.”
Leon Clarke has provided Wilder with another tough judgement call after making steady but unspectacular progress in his battle to overcome a hamstring injury.
“Leon will be okay after the (international) break,” he said. “We’ll see if Forest would be a risk we don’t want to take.”