Chris Wilder, the Sheffield United manager, has warned Kieron Freeman he must maintain the standards that earned him a senior Wales call-up if he is to remain United’s regular right-back.
The 26-year-old was called up to the senior Welsh squad for the first time for their crucial Nations League clash against the Republic of Ireland, and was an unused substitute as Harry Wilson’s superb free-kick earned Ryan Giggs’ men all three points in Dublin.
Freeman is expected to make his 11th appearance of the season for United on Saturday when Wilder’s men travel to Pride Park to face Derby County, after reporting back to United’s Steelphalt Academy training base with no fitness complaints.
And Wilder said: “We’re always very proud when players go away and experience international football. We want them to do that, as it’s a feather in the cap for them and for us as a football club, too.
“But the biggest thing for any manager is always that they come back without picking up any knocks, and none of the lads have done that. So we’re at full-strength.”
While Freeman may now harbour hopes of being called up to Giggs’ next squad and winning his first senior international cap – he did represent Wales’ U21s as a youngster after pledging allegiance to them – Wilder was quick to point out that, in George Baldock, Freeman has real competition for his shirt and must perform well to keep it.
“It’s great for Kieron, and a real reward for his performances so far this season,” Wilder added.
“And I’m not surprised he was called up, either. It shows he’s progressing nicely.
“But he has to play well here to stay in the team, because George is right behind him and desperate to play.
“We’ve got competition for places here, which drives people on and raises their standards. And that’s what we need.”