NIGEL CLOUGH has played down talk that Sheffield United may make a move for Derby County club captain Shaun Barker.
The ex-Rotherham United defender, 32, has linked up with the Blades to build his match fitness playing for the club’s Under-21 side.
Barker, who played at Derby under Clough, recently returned to action after almost three years out with a knee injury.
With rules enabling only three over-age players featuring in Under-21 sides, Barker has been able to line up just once for the Rams and boosted his fitness levels with a second 45-minute appearance for the Blades against Nottingham Forest on Monday afternoon.
Clough said: “We are just helping Shaun out, so he can get a bit of game time.
“We have brought him in just to play a couple of games. Derby have got other people who need games, which is understandable with the state of their season.
“We just said that we have a couple of Under-21 games and we have got a lot of youngsters on loan and so we said for him to come and play a couple of 45 minutes or whatever he needs and hopefully he will play again next Monday.”
Clough may be among the four nominees for the League One manager-of-the-month award for February – with Jamie Murphy in the running for the player of the month gong – but he is more concerned about putting matters right on Saturday against Fleetwood after the Blades slipped up in a 2-1 loss to Peterborough on Tuesday night.
On an evening when promotion-chasers Preston, Swindon and MK Dons all dropped points, the Blades failed to propel themselves into the top-two reckoning, with a hamstring injury suffered by Ryan Flynn compounding matters.
Clough said: “They are going to be under pressure to get results and we have to take advantage and we missed a chance.
“The order of the night was to grind a 1-0 out.
“That is what all the top teams will be doing at this stage of the season, Bristol City being a prime example. We conceded two poor goals.
“But we are not much worse off and we are only a point worse off than we were at the start of the night. With 13 games to go, we have still got a chance.”