George Baldock's chances of facing Burnley are rated as it emerges he has been playing through injury

Paul Heckingbottom, Sheffield United’s caretaker manager, has predicted George Baldock could return to action for Sunday’s final round of Premier League games after shedding more light on the injury which forced him to miss the club’s visit to Newcastle.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 3:15 pm

Having previously missed only six top-flight games this season, Baldock sat out the 1-0 defeat at St James’ Park as a precautionary measure after complaining of discomfort in a hamstring during the win over Everton three days earlier.

Heckingbottom, who is expected to relinquish control following the meeting with Sean Dyche’s side, told The Star it is still too early to say if the wing-back will be declared available for selection this weekend. But, after discussing the injury with both United’s medical staff and the player himself, the former Leeds, Barnsley and Hibernian chief is hopeful Baldock will receive the all-clear.

“George, I don’t know if many people saw, he was pulling up a little bit towards the end of the match at Goodison Park,” Heckingbottom said. “His hamstring was getting tight and it’s something he’s been carrying and managing for a while now.”

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Wolverhampton, England, 17th April 2021. Rayan Ait-Nouri of Wolverhampton Wanderers with George Baldock of Sheffield Utd during the Premier League match at Molineux, Wolverhampton. Picture credit should read: Darren Staples/ Sportimage

Although the revelation that Baldock has been troubled by the problem for “a decent amount of time” is a cause for concern, United privately believe rest will address the issue. Having been relegated back to the Championship midway through last month, Heckingbottom has previously insisted he will “take no risks” with the fitness of any squad member. But with supporters preparing to re-enter Bramall Lane for the first time in 14 months, as restrictions imposed because of he Covid-19 pandemic continue to be relaxed, Baldock will be desperate to face Burnley before undergoing an extensive period if rest and relaxation ahead of United’s return to training over the summer.

Harry Boyes, previously of Manchester City and a member of their under-23’s team, was named on the bench at Newcastle and has been placed on stand-by again should Baldock fail to recover in time.

“We want to have our strongest group out on the pitch, well, as strong as possible,” Heckingbottom said. “We’ve got a lot of quality players already out but we’ll be giving everything in that one, because we want to go out on a positive note.”