Sheffield United defend themselves after claims about their conduct

Paul Heckingbottom has defended Sheffield United’s decision to allow George Baldock to play on after being injured during a first-half collision midway through the first-half of last weekend’s derby at Leeds, before the defender was withdrawn with a concussion which could rule him out of Sunday’s game against Arsenal.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 4:45 pm

Baldock was cleared to continue after accidentally being struck by Tyler Roberts’ leg, but had to be substituted during the closing stages of the opening period after complaining his vision had deteriorated.

Two high profile former professionals turned television pundits were critical of United’s actions following the match, with Alan Shearer asking “when will football learn?” However Heckingbottom, their caretaker manager, explained Baldock’s initial on-the-pitch examination fully adhered to guidelines introduced to protect players’ well-being.

“George was checked on the pitch, even down to the neck,” he said. “You have to pass everything and George passed them. He came back on and was okay.

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“Then, I’m not sure what actions he did or if anything else happened, but he started to say he didn’t feel great and mentioned his vision. The medical staff run all of these things, they make the calls, and that is absolutely right.

“They are the only ones allowed to make a decision or take an expert view. Nobody else interferes and nobody does anything other than putting the player’s health and well-being first. Again, quite rightly so.”

The Football Association’s ‘Return to Play’ document, which details the industry wide recovery programme for diagnosed cases of concussion, states Baldock must be declared ineligible for selection for at least six days. Because he has been placed in what is described as an ‘Advanced Care Setting’, Baldock has a chance of facing Mikel Arteta’s team. But with United 15 points adrift of safety with only eight matches remaining and destined to be relegated from the Premier League they could err on the side of caution and allow Baldock to miss the contest.

The PL’s own website confirms players can be substituted for concussion if they pass all the necessary checks, but then report display symptoms as the game wears on. This is what happened in Baldock’s case.

George Baldock of Sheffield United gets injured at Elland Road: Andrew Yates/Sportimage

Heckingbottom is expected to provide an update on the wing-back and his colleague Jayden Bogle, who suffered a suspected concussion at Elland Road, when he faces the media ahead of Arsenal’s visit to South Yorkshire.

Although Bogle’s diagnosis was not confirmed at the time, he was not deemed fit enough to complete the game, which United lost 2-0. Signed from Derby County over the summer, Bogle’s former team mate at Pride Park, Max Lowe, was treated for concussion earlier this term after a challenge with Fulham’s Ruben Loiftus-Cheek.

“George was a concussion substitute,” Heckingbottom said. “He took a bang. Jayden, he will still be assessed in the same way as a concussion substitute.

“They were both assessed in the evening and George, certainly, will have to go through the necessary protocols as they are laid out by the medical people and the authorities concerned.”

Jayden Bogle of Sheffield Utd and George Baldock watch from the stands after being withdrawn: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

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George Baldock is in danger of missing Arsenal: Simon Bellis/Sportimage