Sheffield United defender's shock picks as unsung heroes of the season so far
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Although neither Brewster nor Norrington-Davies have featured since October as they recover from serious injuries, Baldock insisted the pair have played a bigger role than they realise behind the scenes in recent months.
“If you ask me who two of the biggest helps have been, without a doubt I’d say Rhian and Rhys,” the United defender said. “They’ve been more important than they or anyone else outside of the group could realise. But those of us in it, all of the rest of the lads, they know how brilliant they’ve been and how they’ve continued to contribute despite not being able to play at the moment.”
“I’m sure Rhian and Rhys don’t feel like they’ve done much lately, in terms of results,” Baldock added. “Trust me, they have. Wherever we’re away from home, they are always the first people to put something on the WhatsApp group chat we’ve got. Seriously, that means a lot because it reminds everyone else that we’re all in this together and it helps to keep everyone focused because we know we’re fighting for something much bigger than ourselves. When they’re around the place, they always have smiles on their faces and they never feel sorry for themselves. They get the lads who are going to be out there in the right frame of mind, they help them prepare and they help make sure they’re ready.
“For me, that doesn’t just tell you about the kind of mentality there is here behind the scenes. It also tells you all you need to know about those two guys as well. Brilliant. Just brilliant.”
Although Heckingbottom has refused to put a date on when Brewster and Norrington-Davies are expected to return from hamstring complaints, coaching staff are understood to be hopeful it will be before the end of the campaign. Another long-term absentee, Enda Stevens, is now “back on the grass” according to the United manager as he edges close to being declared available for selection.
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Baldock, who has also recently recovered from a fitness issue himself, could make his 30th appearance of the season when play-off contenders Town travel to South Yorkshire. The wing-back came on as a second-half substitute during Tuesday’s win over Reading, after also featuring against Tottenham Hotspur and Blackburn Rovers since receiving the all-clear from medical staff.
His older brother Sam, who recently spent more than a year out of the game due to a knee complaint diagnosed soon after his switch to Oxford, is another source of encouragement for the Greek international as he chases a return to the top flight.
“Sam has had a long career, he broke through at 16, and so he’s got so much experience,” said Baldock, a member of the United squad which reached the Premier League four years ago. “We speak on the phone every day and Sam is always asking how things are at United and telling me that he hopes we do it.”