Sheffield United: Plenty of sun but no lounging about
It boasts three golf courses, 28 tennis courts and enough outdoor pools to house an Olympic swimming team.
But, far from being an excuse to enjoy a little pampering before the new League One season begins, Chris Wilder explained why Sheffield United’s visit to La Manga makes perfect footballing sense.
“It’s an opportunity to live together, get to know each other and understand what makes everyone click,” he said. “That’s going to be vitally important going forward when the actual games start.
“We’ve brought quite a few lads in and, of course, we are new here too. So to go away, to all be in such a close environment, can only be of benefit over the next 10 months.”
United, who appointed Wilder earlier this summer, arrived in Spain on Sunday and completed a series of warm-weather training sessions before facing a Murcia Representative XI last night. The match, which featured new signings Jake Wright and John Fleck, pitted the tourists against a collection of Segunda B players.
“We haven’t been for a holiday,” Wilder continued. “We’ve been away for work. We pride ourselves on working hard and that’s what the boys will be doing all the way through pre-season. I’m a big believer in the fact you’ve got to put lots in to get something out.”
United, who began their preparations for next month’s game at Bolton Wanderers by beating Stocksbridge Park Steels last weekend, travel to Halifax Town on Tuesday evening before undertaking another away fixture; this time against Grimsby Town. United’s only home friendly, against Derby County, is scheduled for Tuesday 27 July (kick-off 7.45pm).
Wilder revised the club’s close season schedule after reviewing plans made by his predecessor Nigel Adkins. The trip to La Manga, which regularly hosts the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and the Spanish national team, replaced a stay at a heath spa in Leicestershire which had been booked towards the end of Adkins’ reign. United also held discussions with Burnley about a match at Turf Moor ahead of August 6th’s curtain-raiser against Wanderers but will now finish their pre-season programme by facing Handsworth Parramore instead.
“We’ve got plans and methods that have worked for us in the past,” Wilder, who led Northampton Town to promotion last term, said. “There’s a reasoning and a thinking behind them but, of course, we’re always happy to try something new if we think it’s going to be of benefit.”
Mark Duffy, Jack O’Connell, Chris Hussey and James Wilson were also included in the squad which appeared at La Manga Stadium after completing moves to Bramall Lane.
“We’re bringing in good players,” Wilder said. “And good people, good characters, as well.”