Sheffield United: ‘Don’t disrespect our midfielders by calling this a two way fight’

Sheffield United midfielder John Lundstram has suddenly become even more important
Sheffield United midfielder John Lundstram has suddenly become even more important

It was instructive, when they sat down to discuss Sheffield United's midfield options, that both Chris Wilder and Mark Duffy shoe-horned his name into the conversation.

John Lundstram; previously of Everton and Oxford and England under-20's. A player who, despite making only four starts this season, remains an integral part of the manager's plan at Bramall Lane.

"We've got good players here, good players who are pushing, like Paul Coutts, Richard Stearman and John," Wilder, the United manager, said. "That gives us options, it gives us a decision to make. John, I've got to say, has been brilliant in training. Really, really good."

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Although Coutts' return from injury has intensified competition for places in United's engine room, Wilder is convinced Lundstram's different skill set means he has a crucial role to play between now and the end of the season.

Duffy went a step further, insisting it was "disrespectful" to portray the battle to partner John Fleck as being between the 27-year-old's fellow Scot and Oliver Norwood. Or, for that matter, suggest Norwood and Coutts are in direct competition at all.

Sheffield United midfielder Oliver Norwood

Sheffield United midfielder Oliver Norwood

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"Couttsy coming back has definitely made us stronger," he said. "And with Ollie coming in, I think we're better equipped now.
"When we lost Couttsy to begin with, if I'm being honest, I don't think we coped very well and struggled to replace him. But with Ollie, he's very similar.

"But then there's John Lundstram too who, in my opinion, is a tremendous player. He's young and he's only going to get better. He's learning all the time, we're all learning. I think it's disrespectful to say it's just between Couttsy and Ollie to be fair."

Although he lacks the passing range of Coutts and Norwood, Lundstram's presence provides Wilder with greater tactical flexibility. The 24-year-old is unlikely to split defences with a perfectly flighted through ball. But as his challenge on Jack Grealish demonstrated during last month's 4-1 victory over Aston Villa, Lundstram is Wilder's 'go to man' when extra physicality is required. The tackle, which left Grealish in a heap, was as emphatic as the result. And, with Ryan Leonard departing for Millwall, his strength and position sense has become even more important.

Paul Coutts and Mark Duffy

Paul Coutts and Mark Duffy

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"We've got people who bring different things to the table," Wilder continued. "That's good for us and good for the club as a whole. It's something we wanted and looked at when, over the summer, we sat down and looked at how we could improve.

"Everyone here is a part of it. And we need those qualities if we are going to try and achieve something.

"Yes, we've got a way of playing and a way we like to try and set up. But there's different ways of playing within that so you need different qualities."

John Fleck in action for Sheffield United

John Fleck in action for Sheffield United

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