No sign of Slav, a 'new' face and Jayden Bogle's new trim: Six things we noticed as Sheffield United return for pre-season training
Sheffield United’s players returned to their Shirecliffe training base today to be eased back into pre-season training ahead of the new Championship season, which kicks off in less than six weeks.
Those members of United’s squad not involved in this summer’s European Championships were gently put through their paces today, while John Fleck is amongst those who have been granted an extended period of leave to enjoy a break after their season was prolonged by the Euros.
The sight of United’s players back in work has provoked some excitement amongst supporters, as another big milestone in the countdown to the new campaign. Here’s some of the key things we noticed…
No sign of Slav
That was expected, of course, with the new Blades boss not due in Sheffield until later this week when his contract in Qatar officially expires and he can take over his new role.
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But the Serb’s coaching staff will provide him with regular updates on how the players are coping, both in terms of attitude and physicality. Particular attention will be placed on those players who have been linked with moves away this summer.
George is all smiles
Considering how professional United’s social media department has become in recent years, it probably wasn’t co-incidental that an image of George Baldock back at Shirecliffe was amongst the first posted on social media this morning.
The wing-back has been linked with a move to Celtic over the weekend, as their new boss Ange Postecoglou looks to reshape his squad ahead of a bid to wrestle the SPL title back from Rangers.
There is no suggestion from United that Baldock is unhappy at the Blades after their recent relegation back to the Championship – and he certainly didn’t give off the impression of someone who wasn’t happy to be back with his mates after working hard with a personal trainer during the off-season.
All in good shape
Long gone are the days when players turned up to pre-season training a stone overweight, sticking on the bin-bags and sloping towards the back of the group on the long-distance runs.
Most, if not all, of United’s players will have undergone sessions during the summer to make sure they retain some fitness and although their levels will have understandably dropped, it will now be a case of fine-tuning for United’s players as they prepare for the new season.
After Nottingham Forest declined to take up the option to make his loan move to the City Ground permanent, Luke Freeman joined back up with his Blades teammates for pre-season and may feel he has a point to prove after a frustrating spell on loan.
Freeman was hindered by a botched operation which limited his involvement and with United short on midfield options as things stand, he will fancy his chances of forcing his way into Jokanović’s plans – especially if he deploys a formation which features an attacking midfielder.
Freeman proved to be one of the best of those at Championship level during his time at QPR, and similar returns at Bramall Lane next season will be most helpful as Jokanović looks to hit the ground running.
Bogle’s new trim
United’s smart, new, grey training kit wasn’t the most eye-catching thing in the photos they released today, with Jayden Bogle sporting a fetching new blonde hair-cut.
The right-back was all smiles as he posed for the camera after speculation linking him with a move away from Bramall Lane, although talk that Norwich City may make a move for the former Derby man if they sell Max Aarons this summer proved to be wide of the mark.
The kids are all right
Kyron Gordon and Tyler Smith were amongst the young Blades who joined in training with the first team on their first day back, and with new boss Jokanović’s track record on promoting youth it could well be a big season ahead for the talented crop of young players at Bramall Lane.
As The Star revealed recently, United are continuing negotiations with Iliman Ndiaye over a new contract and will look to tie down more of their young stars soon, with Gordon’s contract set to expire next summer.
It’s understood, though, that United have an option in their favour to extend that by another season.