George Baldock admits Sheffield United’s 7,000 strong away following to MK Dons back in April helped convince him to make the move to Bramall Lane.
Baldock signed a three-year deal at United yesterday, becoming the fourth player to do so since promotion back to the Championship was confirmed.
He played in both MK games against United - Chris Wilder’s side winning both on their way to 100 points, and the League One title - and made 42 appearances in all.
But one sticks in his mind. In his first newspaper interview since joining United, he told The Star: “I went out with Samir [Carruthers, United’s former MK Dons midfielder] after the game at MK because he stayed down, and we couldn’t stop talking about the away support from the United fans.
“It was different class, to be fair. Even from when we were in the Championship, I haven’t seen or heard fans as loud as that; even going back to the Manchester United game [in 2014, a 4-0 MK win].
“But even then, United were as loud, if not louder. It was the best atmosphere from an away end I’ve seen at MK. Different class.”
As were United on the pitch that day. Billy Sharp’s 200th and 201st career goals, after Leon Clarke’s early header broke the deadlock, gave Wilder’s men a comfortable 3-0 win and kept them on course for the title, cheered on by a remarkable away following.
Support off the pitch, of course, is no guarantee of success on it. But, as United prepare for the Championship on the back of arguably the most successful season in their recent history, Baldock knows it only highlights the potential of his new employers.
“The support that day shows the potential of the club and the passion that the fans have,” the 24-year-old defender added.
“That rubs off on the players and speaking for myself, playing at full back, having thousands of fans roaring you on gives you that extra percentage when you’re attacking, so it really does make a difference.
The support that day shows the potential of the club and the passion that the fans have. That rubs off on the players and speaking for myself, playing at full back, having thousands of fans roaring you on gives you that extra percentage when you’re attacking, so it really does make a difference.
“It’s just up to me now to work hard. There’s a really good competition for places all over the pitch here, and I just want to get the chance now to show all those fans what I can do.”
Wilder has already signed Ched Evans, Nathan Thomas and Enda Stevens since United won the League One title.
“I was excited when I heard of United’s interest, for a number of reasons, including the manager’s record over the past couple of seasons and the passion of the fans,” Baldock added.
“It took a bit of time, going back and forth with negotiations, and it’s such a big club with massive aspirations to kick on as well, so it’s a great move for me.
“I knew United were interested, and that they liked me, quite a while ago and the clubs got in contact after the season ended.
“From the minute my agent told me, I wanted to get it done.
“I loved my time at MK Dons and look back with so many fond memories, but I just feel like it’s my time now to move on.
“Sheffield United is such a huge club, that I just couldn’t turn it down.”
MK Dons boss Robbie Nielson admitted United’s bid for Baldock was too good to turn down.
He added: “We’re disappointed to lose George because he’s a talented player. He wanted to test himself in the Championship next season, though, and we wish him all the best.”