Sheffield United v Sunderland: Frustrated Coutts taking the slow road to recovery

Paul Coutts will return to watch Sheffield United today for the first time since suffering a horrific broken leg.

Paul Coutts, in action against Norwich City at Bramall Lane back in September. Picture: Jamie Tyerman/Sportimage

The Blades midfielder broke his right tibia in a tackle with Burton Albion’s Marvin Sordell on November 17.

The injury – likely to rule out Coutts for the remainder of the season – meant the former Scotland Under-21 international spent a rare Christmas Day at home while his Blades team-mates trained ahead of today’s visit of Sunderland.

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But Coutts, 28, has been a regular at United’s training ground as he starts out on the long road to recovery

“I think I’ve got Christmas Day off for the first time in a long while,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “So every cloud I guess. Joking aside, I’ll be in when the lads are here. I’ll be coming to the game on Boxing Day so I’m looking forward to that. I was in a full leg cast for the first week or so, so it was impossible to come.

“Because that’s come off now, the cast is smaller. The cast has been cut right down and, hopefully, what I’ll be left with is like a small shin pad.

“I’ve got family coming down for Christmas and the family has all been down since it happened,” he said.

“It’s good to be back among the lads and it’s going okay.”

Sheffield United's Paul Coutts is given gas and air after suffering a broken leg at Burton Albion last month. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Pictures showing the horrific tackle on Coutts were circulating on social media during the Burton game and they confirmed to Coutts the serious injury after he was stretchered off at the Pirelli Stadium.

The former Derby County midfielder said: “I heard a crack and thought ‘I might have broke my leg there’.

“Then the adrenalin came in and I thought I might be okay.

“But then the pictures starting circling on social media.

GREAT DAY: Paul Coutts, left, and John Fleck celebrate winning the League One title at Bramall Lane last season. Picture: Nick Potts/PA.

“I was in the treatment room and one of the guys in there saw it on his phone. I told him to show me and, when he did, that’s when I knew it was bad. As broken legs go, it’s not too bad. My tibia went, but my fibula held on. So I’ve been told I was quite lucky.”

Coutts and John Fleck provided United’s midfield engine room that powered them to promotion last season from League One.

The duo were also influential in taking Chris Wilder’s team to the top of the Championship.

But it is no co-incidence that, without Coutts, United’s recent results – they have not won in six games since that night at Burton – have dipped.

Sheffield United's Paul Coutts is given gas and air after suffering a broken leg at Burton Albion last month. Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“The response I’ve had from everyone at the club has been great,” said Coutts. “The amount of letters has been incredible.

“To be honest, I was buzzing (afterwards) because we went top of the league after that game.

“So I didn’t want much making of it because injuries are part and parcel of the game.

“I think we’ve deserved more points than we’ve got in this run.

“We’re still doing well and punching well above our weight.

“We’ve dominated for certain periods and it’s just the way it’s going at the moment. But, yes, it is frustrating when there’s nothing you can do about it.

GREAT DAY: Paul Coutts, left, and John Fleck celebrate winning the League One title at Bramall Lane last season. Picture: Nick Potts/PA.

“Whether or not I can kick a ball again this season, we’ll see. I certainly hope so, but that’s up for the doctors to decide.”

The midfielder has nothing but praise for the Burton staff following his horror injury while former Blades team-mate John Brayford – now playing for Nigel Clough’s Albion – travelled with Coutts to hospital.

“Bray came into the physio room and came to hospital with me,” said Coutts. “He was brilliant. I’d had some pretty strong pain killers at the time so I don’t remember too much of it.

“We’ve been friends a long time and I thought that was a really nice touch – fair play.

“Everyone at Burton was spot on too. The physio there was great and so were the coaching staff. The gaffer, who obviously I know, came to see me too. He was great as well. Just like the lads here.”

Coutts has enjoyed spending time at home with his family – he has 18-month-old twins – but admits he was relieved to return to United’s training ground at Shirecliffe.

“For the first three weeks I was just sat on the sofa,” he said. “We’ve got twins at home and they were running riot so I reckoned I had to get back in among the lads.

“I think the missus had had enough of me as well. She’s probably pleased I’m back at the training ground. I think it makes it easier, having a bad injury before. That one was much more complicated. I’ve got a clear path in my head about what’s going to happen and how I’m going to come back so that helps.

“I’m here and trying to keep the lads upbeat through the little run of results we’ve had. To be fair, I don’t think there’s a great deal wrong.

“The lads are still upbeat and so that’s good to see. So I’ll help where I can.”

Last six games: Sheffield United LDLLLD Sunderland LWLDWD.

Referee: Peter Bankes.

Last time: Sheffield United 1 Sunderland 0; September 28, 2004; Championship.