senior members of the Sheffield United dressing room will have a vital part to play in ensuring the club’s season isn’t derailed by three key injuries, a leading expert in sports psychology has claimed.
United, who go into Saturday’s home game against Yeovil Town third placed in the League One table, escaped relatively unscathed from a tough Christmas period - with a shock home defeat against bottom club Hartlepool United the only blot on an otherwise impressive copybook.
The real cost of a hectic schedule, however, can be counted in the Bramall Lane treatment room; centre-halves Neill Collins and Matt Hill will be sidelined for some time with a fractured cheekbone and jaw respectively, while Shaun Miller’s season is over after the striker damaged cruciate ligaments in his knee.
But Ian Maynard, a Professor of sport psychology at Sheffield Hallam University, believes that Wilson and his backroom staff can ensure that the key absences don’t derail United’s season.
“It’s now really important that the manager and senior players ‘sell this’ as an opportunity, rather than a threat to the club,” Professor Maynard told the Sheffield Telegraph.
“It gives them a chance to blood some younger players, as they have done, and it’s a chance for the more experienced players to ‘step up to the plate’ and take responsibility.
“It’s really important to use it as a positive now - if they look at it as a threat, it could cause a lot of anxiety amongst the players and potentially start a downward spiral.”
The psychological effects of losing Miller, who had scored six goals in his last eight games before suffering his injury, could be more prevelant after United’s experiences last year, when they missed out on promotion to the Championship after losing the services of their two most impressive performers, Ched Evans and Kevin McDonald.
“It looked last year like United tried to change the way they played the game after losing those two players,” Professor Maynard added.
“This time, I hope they try and stick to what has got them towards the top of the league.
“It will also give an opportunity to some of the youngsters in the squad, and hopefully they can avoid the fear of failure.”
United’s Matthew Harriott, meanwhile, has extended his loan spell at Alfreton Town until February 12.
United’s League One fixture with Crawley Town, originally scheduled for Saturday January 26, will now take place on Tuesday February 5 (7.45pm) because of United’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at Reading.
A date and kick-off time for the fourth round tie at Reading is expected to be confirmed in due course.
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