It would have taken a brave man to tell Simon Moore that he was unavailable for selection against Scunthorpe tomorrow.
So when the goalkeeper was passed fit after suffering a suspected broken nose against Bristol Rovers in midweek, the sense of relief among Sheffield United’s coaching staff was almost palpable.
“You’d have to drag me off the pitch,” Moore said. “There’s no way I’m missing games like that or, if I can help it, any game at all for the matter. I’m not sure if it actually was broken but, even if it was, it would take more than something like that to keep me out.”
Standing six feet three inches tall and scaling just above the light-heavyweight limit, Moore is among the most physically imposing members of Chris Wilder’s squad. Having helped them climb from 22nd to first since arriving at Bramall Lane earlier this season, he is one of the most important too. Hence, it was impossible to wipe the smile off the United manager’s face when it was confirmed yesterday that, together with centre-forward James Hanson, Moore had received the all-clear to face Graham Alexander’s second-placed side.
“Games like this are huge,” Moore continued. “They take care of themselves though. It’s games like the last one, Bristol Rovers away on a Tuesday night, that get you promoted. The gaffer has brought everyone together and got us really sharp.”
Moore enters tomorrow’s fixture searching for a fourth successive clean sheet and having failed to concede for nearly five-and-a-half hours following wins over AFC Wimbledon, Peterborough and Tuesday’s stalemate at the Memorial Stadium.
“Results are based on clean sheets but they don’t count for anything unless they get you to where you want to be,” he said. “It’s not just about the goalkeepers, though. It’s everyone from one to eleven on the pitch as you saw when (against Rovers) people were chucking themselves in front of the ball to keep it out at the end. That epitomises what we are all about if you ask me.”
Although Moore has benefited from United’s new-found defensive solidity - opponents now enjoy 50 per cent fewer shots on target than they did during his first five games - fellow goalkeepers George Long (pictured) and Jake Eastwood have also been a huge help behind the scenes.
“I’m really enjoying my football,” Moore, who joined from Cardiff City in August, said. “I’m the happiest I’ve been since becoming a player. The goalkeeping unit we’ve got is a special on. Longy is pushing me day in and day out; he’s got an amazing amount of experience considering he’s still so young. Longy is a pleasure to work with and the same goes for Jake Eastwood too. With Rammers (Aaron Ramsdale) going off to a Premiership club (Bournemouth) recently, I think that’s testament to Darren Ward our coach.”
“We’re a tight knit group, us ‘keepers, we have to be,” Moore added. “We do our own thing for 45 minutes at the start of training and get all sorts of stick, tons of banter, from the rest of the boys. But even though there’s about 20 of them and only three of us, we stick together and give as good as we get. Stuff like that makes this a great place to be.”