John Egan out for two months due to foot injury

Difficult to know whether defender will be missed more by Ireland or Sheffield United

Lamenting the loss for two months to injury of John Egan at his pre-match on Friday, Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder suggested the club has been "cursed" with injuries to key players over the course of this campaign.

It is difficult to know whether the 28-year-old will be missed more by club or country over the coming weeks, but Stephen Kenny might be forgiven for feeling Wilder is just collateral damage in this new era of what our friends across the water like to refer to as "the luck of the Irish".

When he succeeded Mick McCarthy last year, Kenny spent a good deal of his very first press conference singing the praises of the Corkman. Egan, he suggested, had been undervalued in England through much of his career, but having belatedly had the opportunity to play in the Premier League, he had already shown himself to be someone who could improve his national team.

Egan, he suggested, could “change the dynamic of the back four”, and that back four “gives you a great platform to go and build the rest”.

The Dubliner will surely have known to expect the worst as Egan was carried from the pitch late on in Monday’s 3-0 defeat by West Ham with his leg in a brace, and Wilder confirmed it on Friday as he previewed what is, to those who still believe the club has any outside chance of still saving itself of relegation, a critically important game against Fulham.

“John Egan is going to be out for eight weeks,” said the manager. “He needs an operation on a dislocated toe. It’s a situation where John has gone to block a shot and when we saw the reaction of a committed, brave player straightaway we all knew he was in trouble.

“It’s a big blow to lose him for eight weeks. I do feel we’ve been cursed with injuries. We’ve had big injuries that have hurt us.”

If he gets back playing on that timeframe then the defender could still feature in a six-game run-in that includes meetings with Brighton, Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Burnley. The problem is that without him Sheffield are that little bit less likely to have anything much to play for by then.

Qualifying group

Kenny and Co, meanwhile, will head to Belgrade for a key opening game of the qualifying group stage against Serbia, which takes place on March 24th, without Egan, who will also miss the game against Luxembourg three days later.

His absence might have been presented as an opportunity for Nathan Collins, still just 19 but attracting a lot of attention at Stoke of late, but for the fact that he fractured a bone in his foot last Saturday, and will be out for much the same amount of time.

Another defender Kenny has spoken highly of, Blackburn's Derrick Williams, last played on December 12th and, having aggravated a quad muscle injury, is not expected to do so again before the summer.

Ciaran Clark’s recent run of games for Newcastle is much more encouraging and though it is disappointing that Dara O’Shea appears to have, temporarily at least, lost his starting spot for West Brom, there may be some small consolation in the thought that he is less likely to get hurt on the bench.

A year or so all of the above would have been generally regarded as the sort of information that would be mulled over before the manager selected a defensive partner for Shane Duffy, but his form at Celtic has been so poor that both places may be up for grabs in Belgrade. On Wednesday the 29-year-old started a fourth game in five on the bench.

Achilles problem

Robbie Brady is expected to miss Burnley's game this weekend having come off just 24 minutes after going on against Fulham on Wednesday. Social media reckoned he just had a stinker but it turned out he had also an Achilles problem and though he has had a scan and Sean Dyche suggests the injury is not too serious, it remains unclear how long he might be out for.

Crystal Palace's James McCarthy, on the other hand, trained on Thursday, according to Roy Hodgson, and could well start for the first time in three weeks on Monday.

West Ham's Darren Randolph still seems to be working his way back to fitness and is not expected to make the squad for Sunday's visit of Tottenham.