James Shield in Marbella: Sheffield United are in the lap of luxury – but won’t see much of it

The Sheffield United squad are put through their paces at their training base in Marbella
The Sheffield United squad are put through their paces at their training base in Marbella
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The Marbella Football Centre, where Sheffield United will spend the next three days preparing for the start of the new Championship season, is a luxurious, state-of-the-art training complex.

Bayern Munich, Dynamo Kyiv and Zenit St Petersburg are among the teams to visit this emerald green oasis, located within a long three wood of the La Quinta Golf Course, on the Costa Del Sol in recent months.

But while they will enjoy plenty of creature comforts throughout their stay - steam baths, massage and even a barbeque are among the facilities listed on this “high performance resort’s” website - Chris Wilder has reminded his players there is still no substitute for hard work.

Or, given the importance he places on team spirit, living in each others’ pockets for a week.

“The group and the spirit is key,” Wilder said. “How we are now, the new boys have easily settled in.

“That’s because they are good characters too.

“It will only be enhanced by being away and living together for 24 hours a day.

“I know people think things like this are a bit of a ‘jolly up’ but ask the lads who were with us last year.

“It will get ramped-up and we’ll ask questions of them. We’ll probably be doing more technical stuff alongside the physical stuff as well.”

Wilder, who joined his squad in Spain on Monday evening, employs a number of modern scientific methods to help United’s players reach peak fitness.

But, for every GPS tracker, heart monitor and computer generated stress guage at the League One champions’ warm-weather base, there are old fashioned drills too. Wilder took great pride in the fact his team were “as fit as anyone we faced, if not fitter,” last season.

As next month’s Championship curtainraiser against Brentford edges closer, there is an acknowledgement their conditioning, both mental and physical, must step-up another notch to help United compete on a higher stage.

Explaining why trips abroad, particularly at this time of year, are so invaluable for managers, Wilder cited five “key moments” during his team’s League One title winning campaign.

“Going away is important,” he said. “You get into situations over the course of a nine month season

“Last season, I would identify the last five minutes at Bristol Rovers, after the Walsall game, when we drew against Gillingham, got beaten by Fleetwood and also half-time at Oxford.

“If you aren’t together as a team, in those moments, whether they are long or short, then you don’t come through.”

“There, at Bristol, we had the skipper (Billy Sharp) chucking himself in front of things,” Wilder added.

“Those moments are born out of them being together. It’s not a love in but it’s knowing what people are about, how they mix, how they integrate and what they will do for their team mates.

“We pride ourselves on that. Even with technically better players, they have to buy into that.

“Going away and learning is unbelievably beneficial. For them and for me; seeing how the team as a group takes things forward.”

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