Sheffield United: Blades set for big boost on the fitness front

Sheffield United are confident one of their most experienced players will be available for selection following the international break.

Thursday, 24th March 2022, 2:10 pm

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Manager Paul Heckingbottom revealed George Baldock had volunteered to take part in last weekend’s game against Barnsley, despite not being “100 percent” fit.

But the defender, a veteran of United’s 2019 promotion winning squad, is on course to recover in time for next weekend’s visit to Stoke City; the first of eight games set to decide if Heckingbottom’s side will qualify for another shot at Premier League football.

“George was ready to go out there,” Heckingbottom told The Star, following the 2-0 win over Poya Asbaghi’s team. “He was happy to do it and he wanted to do it. But he wasn’t totally ready and so, with everything else that’s happened, we decided it wasn’t worth taking the risk and maybe even losing him again.”

Heckingbttom was referring to the injury crisis which has gutted his squad over the past month. Although Baldock has made significant progress in his battle to overcome a knee complaint, captain and leading goalscorer Billy Sharp is now undergoing treatment for a hamstring issue while Chris Basham, Charlie Goode and Ben Davies are also in danger of missing the meeting with City. Rhian Brewster, David McGoldrick and Jayden Bogle are already ruled-out for the remainder of the season, while Jack O’Connell has not featured since the beginning of last term.

Although many of his team mates have been granted time off, Baldock has been reporting for duty at United’s training complex this week in order to ensure he is in a position to face Michael O’Neill’s men.

“George and Enda (Stevens), they’ll be coming in,” Heckingbottom said. “There won’t be any time off for them. They’ll be here and working to get totally up to speed again.”

Oliver Norwood of Sheffield United and George Baldock (right), who has been working at Sheffield United's training complex this week: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

Baldock had attempted to negotiate his way through the closing stages of the fixture calendar. But he finally succumbed following last month’s clash with Millwall – departing The Den with an ice pack wrapped around his leg.

"It shows what the lads are about,” Heckingbottom added, “The fact that he was ready to play.”

Sheffield United defender George Baldock (second left) hopes to feature against Stoke City: Simon Bellis / Sportimage