James Shield's Marbella Diary: This is no beer and sunshine trip for Sheffield United's players...unlike last time

There'll be very little of this in sight for Sheffield United players
There'll be very little of this in sight for Sheffield United players
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Any Sheffield United supporters in Marbella who are handy with a football might like to make themselves known to Estoril.

The Portuguese club were scheduled to play a team from Morocco in a friendly nearby this evening but bureaucracy, or to put it another way, someone's failure to secure the necessary visas, means the North Africans are still in North Africa.

The Star's James Shield is in Marbella with the Sheffield united squad

The Star's James Shield is in Marbella with the Sheffield united squad

That was the rumour doing the rounds at today's press conference in Estapona designed to celebrate tomorrow's evening's contest between Chris Wider's team and Malaga FC. Apparently it is de rigueur for Spanish teams to stage such an event when they stage friendlies in the provinces. Míchel, the Real Madrid legend turned Albicelestes head coach, a collection of former Malaga players and the major of Coin, where the match with United will take place, were all on hand to press the flesh and answer questions. Oh, and Yours Truly of course. (Well, somebody needed to help United's media guy carry his assortment of bags, cameras and tripods).

Waiting for the whole shebang to start, I wandered out onto the balcony of the hotel where the ceremony was taking place to admire the view. And reminisce about a previous visit to this town, around 30 minutes drive along the A7 Autovía, with United.

That took play in the spring of 2014, as Bramall Lane's finest were preparing for their FA Cup semi-final against Hull City and defending a terrific unbeaten run in League One. Having spent the morning watching Wilder's squad toil away in near 30 degree heat, I can testify this is a very different trip to that mid-season jaunt through Andalusia. Back then, all the players had to worry about was finding a sunbed and a cool San Miguel.

Nigel Clough, who was manager at the time, suspected a good old fashioned jolly-up was more likely to help his charges cope with the fixture carnage their march to Wembley had caused than a spot of light stretching or a stint on the massage table. And, given their battling performance against Steve Bruce's side, he turned out to be right.

Just like, towards the end of last season, when United's celebrations after winning the title did not fail to stop them accumulating 100 League One points. Science is great, particularly during pre-season. But, when the time is right, there's something to be said for old school methods too.

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