Harry Chapman is expected to make his first appearance since recovering from injury next week after receiving the all-clear to rejoin Sheffield United from Middlesbrough.
The on-loan midfielder has been earmarked for a place in the under-23 squad which hosts Bolton Wanderers on Monday following talks between the League One leaders and their counterparts at the Riverside.
Chris Wilder described Chapman’s return to fitness as “really good news” as his team attempts to secure Championship football next term and, speaking ahead of Saturday’s visit to Rochdale, the United manager said: “Harry, if all goes well, will probably take part in that match early next week. It’s going to be good to see him back but, because he’s been out for a while, we don’t want to rush him. It’s important we bring him on properly so that he can get back to doing what we know he can do as soon as possible with no more problems.”
Chapman, aged 19, had been scheduled to report for duty at the Steelphalt Academy on Monday but, after undergoing a final round tests on Teesside, is now poised to begin training with Wilder’s side tomorrow instead.
The England under-20 international scored four goals in 11 appearances for United before damaging a membrane in his ankle before an FA Cup tie in December. Although that forced officials at Bramall Lane to cancel his original loan, talks with Middlesbrough saw them broker another agreement which limited United’s financial obligations while he was unavailable for selection.
“We want to build Harry back up properly,” Wilder said. “We’ve done the same thing with Samir (Carruthers) after he got a knock on his debut at Southend. You’ve got to give people a proper, solid conditioning base. If you don’t, you run the risk of something else happening.”
“That’s not fair on them, us and, in this case, Harry’s parent club Middlesbrough,” Wilder added. “They know we’ll look after him properly and we’ll be delighted to see him back with us. He’s a really talented young lad who, before he had this set-back, was showing exactly what he’s all about. It will be good to see him get back to that.”
United moved seven points clear of second-placed Scunthorpe after beating Wanderers last weekend.
Rochdale secured a 1-1 draw at Bramall Lane earlier this term but, having expressed his “respect” for Keith Hill’s side, Wilder insisted is squad is now a much tougher proposition than the one they encountered seven months ago.
“We’ve come on a lot since then,” he said. “For a whole host of reasons, I think we’re a different team to the one back then. We’ve come on.”