A BOUT of glandular fever may have left Sheffield United’s players insisting David Brooks uses his own water bottle to prevent anyone else being struck down by the debilitating illness.
But the Blades players are in no doubt as to how important the Wales international can be in their quest to reach the Championship play-offs.
Brooks came off the bench against Burton Albion on Tuesday night to net only his third goal of a season that has been badly disrupted by the illness, which struck before Christmas.
The goal helped settle nerves against Nigel Clough’s stubborn Brewers’ side as United won 2-0 to move to within two points and one place of the top six.
“I was really happy for Brooksy,” said defender Chris Basham. “He has had a stop-start season so far.
“But hopefully he can come into his own over the next nine games. You can see how big he is in terms of the impact he can make.
“The fans love seeing him, too. He gives everyone a lift just with a touch of the ball.
“You need players who can turn a game. We saw that for ourselves against Fulham the other week.
“They played really well, but the big thing was having (Aleksandar) Mitrovic to put the ball in the back of the net. He has been doing that for the last few games.
“To have someone who can make an impact at the right moment by scoring goals is invaluable.
“Sharpy, Duffy and Brooksy are big players for us.”
Brooks has made the breakthrough at Bramall Lane this term. His performance in the September derby win at Sheffield Wednesday underlined his potential and helped bring a first senior call-up for Wales.
Then, however, glandular fever struck and it has been a long and frustrating fight back towards fitness.
Basham added: “Brooksy started the season so well, but then got the illness. I sit next to him in the dressing room and he is more frustrated than anyone. People come up and ask if he is all right.
To have someone who can make an impact at the right moment by scoring goals in invaluable. Sharpy, Duffy and Brooksy are big players for us.Sheffield United’s Chris Basham
“He wants to say ‘yes’ but he isn’t 100 per cent. That is dead frustrating for him.
“Mind, I have been trying not to catch anything off him. My career is a bit shorter than his. He has his own bottles of water because no one wants to touch anything of his.
“Seriously, though, the only place to do it right is on the pitch and he did that.
“It was great for Brooksy to score ahead of the weekend game.”
Nottingham Forest are next up for United on Saturday. Another three points together with Middlesbrough losing at Brentford would take Chris Wilder’s men into the top six for the international break.
To prevail against Aitor Karanka’s side, however, the performance will have to be better than their first-half efforts against Burton.
Even though the Blades led through Enda Stevens at the break the Brewers had been the better side and created the lion’s share of chances.
Basham said: “It was job done in the end. We always knew it might be frustrating after the Bristol City result at the weekend (when Burton drew 0-0)
“But I think we were most frustrated with ourselves. We expect to be a lot better from the start.
“Balls were going out of play, and the game was slowing down. We found that tough.
“The second half, though, I felt things came together a lot more.
“To win the game 2-0 is a great result and sets us up for, hopefully, a good weekend.”