Chris Wilder admits that Jack O’Connell could miss the rest of the season for Sheffield United.
The club announced that O’Connell needs to have a knee operation ahead of kick-off with Leeds United on Sunday.
“Jack O’Connell is possibly out for the season. He will have an operation on Wednesday and we are looking at six months minimum,” Wilder told Sky Sports.
“He was having discomfort and some issues with his knee and from a long-term point of view it was not good for him to carry on how it was.
“He’s an important part so we need to cover that situation. For him to potentially be out for the rest of the season is a blow.
“I’ve spoken to the owners, as obviously we’ve known this for two or three days and we need to bring someone in in that position. We are light and can’t solely rely on Jack Robinson playing that position all the way through.”
What happens now with Jack O’Connell out for the season?
The Blades do have readymade cover for O’Connell on the left side of central defence in Jack Robinson. Robinson came in for the 1-0 defeat to Leeds at Bramall Lane.
Yet with no O’Connell available for most of 2020/21 it seems, it does leave Wilder lacking defensive options.
At the weekend, with John Egan also suspended they started with Chris Basham, Ethan Ampadu and Robinson at centre-back.
Phil Jagielka was on the bench, but beyond that they are lacking. Kean Bryan is still technically on the books, but clearly remains some way off Wilder’s first team plans.
Bryan spent the second half of last term on loan in League One with Bolton Wanderers. The 23-year-old hasn’t played for the Blades since January’s FA Cup win over AFC Fylde – although was named on the bench for the Carabao Cup defeat to Burnley last week.
Presumably with O’Connell out, Wilder is targeting a left-sided player. But with only a week remaining until the transfer window closes, time is running out.
Also, the loss of O’Connell is a big one. The 26-year-old was a key part of their impressive defensive record last season, playing in 33 of their Premier League matches.
The Blades only kept one of their 11 clean sheets without O’Connell in the side, as they secured the fourth best defensive record in the entire division.