Sheffield United: Defender makes a surprising admission as Chris Wilder’s side chase automatic promotion to the Premier League
Full-time footballer, part-time genealogist and occasional researcher of FIFA's eligibility rules, George Baldock has found a novel new way of ensuring he is not totally consumed by the challenge of trying to reach the Premier League.
"Apparently I qualify for Greece," the Sheffield United defender reveals following a routine question about his life away from Bramall Lane. "One of my grandparents was from there and that seems to be good enough. The only trouble is, looking through their squad, they've got lads from Arsenal and Olympiacos. Oh, and I don't speak the language."
Tracing his ancestry and examining Angelos Anastasiadis' options has proven a welcome distraction for Baldock in recent weeks. On the cusp of the top two ahead of tomorrow's visit to Preston North End, manager Chris Wilder wants United's players to remain focused. But, recognising the dangers of becoming completely obsessed, the manager and his staff are also aware they need to occasionally escape the pressures of an automatic promotion push.
The Championship table makes bitter sweet reading for other members of the Baldock family. Although United are third and dreaming of the top-flight, the wing-back's brother Sam is embroiled in a battle against relegation following a disappointing season at Reading.
The two are close and provide each other with support. But, after enjoying great success with his previous club Brighton, Baldock explains his older sibling's guidance comes in unusual form.
"He's delighted when we win. He has been injured lately but of course I still keep an eye on their results.
"To be honest, because he knows the process we are going through - and has been there and done it when he got out of the division - he knows not to really talk too much about it.
"When we are here, it is really intense. We work really hard and when you go home you want to chill out and relax. He knows that so that probably makes him the perfect person to lean on. He doesn’t want to talk about it."
Baldock also finds himself in familiar territory, having won promotion with both MK Dons and Oxford before joining United two years ago. Nor, as he attempts to draw upon that experience during the final seven matches of their campaign, is he short of good advice much closer to home.
"The two promotions are not so much about what you learn," Baldock admits. "More, as you get to the business end of the season, you trust in the process and trust in what has got you there in the first place.
"That is echoed by the gaffer here. You will not see us change our approach, just because we are in the last few games.
"We are here because we deserve to be in this position. Hard work and doing the right things have earned us that."
"Good dressing rooms were important in those two previous ones though," he continues. "We've definitely got one of those here."
United travel to Deepdale trailing second-placed Leeds by two points after losing to Bristol City last weekend. It was a rare false step by a team which had entered the fixture unbeaten in 10 outings and searching for its eighth consecutive clean sheet. Baldock, though, dismisses suggestions the defeat will erode their confidence. Or, for that matter, cast a shadow over future performances.
"It is relatively straight forward at this club because the gaffer keeps you level-headed and grounded. Never too low and never too high.
"He does that by how he has recruited the right sort of people. Not just players but people. No-one gets above their station. They are just willing to work hard and put everything on the line."
Preston are playing for high-stakes too. Alex Neil's side are 10th and within touching distance of the play-offs despite suffering a surprise defeat at the Madejski Stadium six days ago. Baldock acknowledges Alex Neil's side will pose a threat - "There's a lot of really good players across the league" - but has faith in United's powers of recovery. They last lost back to back league games in August.
"A lot of it stems from just working hard. This is a fantastic group and we're all very good friends. I know a lot say that but it is honestly true.
"It's a dressing room full of honest, hard-working and talented players. There is no 'Big Time Charlies' and no-one who steps out of line. If they did, they would be put back in line by the skipper, the senior lads and most definitely, the gaffer."