Paul Coutts has been offered no guarantees about a place in Sheffield United's starting eleven despite making his long-awaited comeback from injury.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game against Hull City, manager Chris Wilder confirmed the midfielder will not receive any "special" or "sentimental" treatment after recovering from a broken leg.
Wilder, who also dismissed suggestions that Liverpool are concerned by Ben Woodburn's absence from United's last two matchday squads, handed Coutts his first taste of senior football for 11 months during Wednesday night's victory over Blackburn Rovers.
"I don't have to fit Paul Coutts in," Wilder said. "Just like I don't have to fit any player in.
"They have to play well to get in. If the best team has him in it, then he'll be in it. If he doesn't, then he won't."
Wilder described Coutts appearance as a second-half substitute at Ewood Park as a "very emotional moment" following the Scot's long battle for fitness. But his comments, during a brutally frank pre-match media briefing, revealed his admiration for Coutts' past achievements will not be allowed to cloud the selection process. Instead, the 30-year-old will be subject to the same scrutiny as Woodburn who, despite being named in the latest Wales squad, has started only two matches since arriving on loan from Liverpool.
Addressing speculation the Premier League club could recall the teenager unless his situation improves, Wilder insisted the current situation could actually be the making of a player.
"We've spoken to Liverpool, we're in continual dialogue with them," he said. "Obviously they want him to play but they're happy. We've got no issue with Ben. He's just trying to get into a good team. The same as Couttsy is, the same as Danny Lafferty is, the same as Richard Stearman is and George Baldock is."
"Liverpool are happy with his progress," Wilder added. "Often, with young players, it's about disappointments too. Listen, the lad is 18 and this is his first real taste of being away from there, battling to try and get in. He's got a tremendous amount of talent, a big future if he continues in the same manner and his time will come, it always does."