Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder is hopeful Leon Clarke will be fit to face Ipswich Town.

Clarke has missed the Blades’ last three matches with a hip problem originally picked up at Rotherham United on November 24.

The striker did play in the next game at Brentford. He came off the bench to score the winner, but was not fully fit.

It was originally thought Clarke could miss the entire Christmas period. Tyler Smith was recalled early from his loan at Barrow as a result.

Smith was an unused substitute during last week’s 2-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion. Having the experience of Clarke will be a bigger boost.

“We’re hopeful he’ll travel down to Ipswich on Friday, he’s back on the grass and will train this afternoon,” Wilder told the Sheffield Star.

“It’s been a frustrating one for Leon and for us, but I’m delighted with the work that the medical department do and everyone who’s connected to the conditioning part of it.”

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

Why Blades need Clarke

Wilder has made signing a new forward in the January transfer window a priority. However, United have at least four more games to contest before then.

Including Smith, Wilder has five strikers to call upon in his squad when everyone is fully fit. Yet in truth the 20-year-old isn’t really ready for Championship football – otherwise he wouldn’t have been on loan in the National League.

That leaves four options, which when Wilder plays two upfront can be limiting. One injury and suddenly there are selection issues.

Clarke may not have hit the scoring heights of last season just yet, when he netted 19 times, but he is still a crucial figure. Arguably the 33-year-old is the most natural goalscorer at Bramall Lane currently.

Until Wilder can sign attacking support Clarke will be needed; even if that means playing through the pain barrier.

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