Jack O’Connell has suffered a “setback” in his recovery from injury.
It’s the news that no Sheffield United fan want to hear, with their team struggling badly in his absence this season.
O’Connell hasn’t played since September after undergoing knee surgery.
It was initially thought the defender would miss the rest of the campaign, but then Chris Wilder offered some unexpected good news.
The Blades manager said O’Connell could be back in mid-February. Supporters’ hopes were further boosted when footage emerged of the 26-year-old doing some work at Shirecliffe.
Suddenly it seemed that O’Connell could be back to help rescue what has been an extremely disappointing season to date.
Without the centre-back, United have slumped to the bottom of the table at the halfway point with just one league win. Their five points at this stage means they’re on course for the worst total in Premier League history.
Yet Wilder has delivered the news that O’Connell won’t be returning to the fold as early as hoped.
“It was never a straightforward situation. It was never him getting back before a time,” the 53-year-old said in his pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth round tie with Plymouth Argyle.
“And it was never him getting back at an exact time. It was an assessment and unfortunately there’s been a little bit of a setback.
“But hopefully – for the boy more importantly than me or the football club – he comes through it.”
How the fans have reacted to latest Jack O’Connell injury news
With Sander Berge also sidelined long-term and five other players out for this weekend’s match with Plymouth, it has been a tough campaign in terms of injuries.
Wilder hasn’t been able to name a full substitutes bench for the past five matches as a result.
This latest “setback” is another knock for the Blades in a year full of them.