Nigel Clough, the Sheffield United manager, has ordered every single member of his squad must be ready for first team action or risk undermining their colleagues’ efforts to reach the Championship.
Clough issued the directive ahead of this afternoon’s League One fixture at Crawley Town which could see the visitors extend their unbeaten run to six games.
“We have stressed from day one it would be a squad game this season,” he said. “It isn’t and was never just going to be about 11 or 12 players.
“When we do need players to come in, they have to be ready and they have been to date.”
Crawley, 22nd in the table despite a 2-1 defeat of Swindon Town last weekend, are expected to deploy the on-loan Darren Ward after he was prohibited from featuring against his parent club while goalkeeper Brian Jensen has recovered from a thumb injury. However, Saunders is preparing to be without Dean Leacock (groin), Lanre Oyebanjo (calf), Marvin Elliott (hamstring), John Simpson (hamstring) and Conor Henderson (ankle) while Joe Walsh completes a three match ban.
Jose Baxter, who scored the only goal of the game when these two clubs met at Bramall Lane six months ago, is suspended for fifth-placed United after being sent-off against Coventry City seven days ago.
Clough said: “Discipline is going to be vital during matches and training.”