Sheffield United: Fouling his brother, playing central midfield and swapping mum's cooking for a loan spell in Iceland... George Baldock's journey to the Premier League
Although so many of Sheffield United's players have taken circumnavigated routes to the Premier League, the personal journey of George Baldock is right up there with the most fairytale of them all.
The Blades right-back spoke recently of his loan spell in Iceland with ÍBV, where there was a very real risk that an overhit pass would see the ball fly into the sea. An hour or so earlier, he had scored his first Premier League goal, to secure a point for his club at Tottenham Hotspur's gleaming new ground.
Little chance, then, of Baldock getting too carried away, even as the Blades sit sixth ahead of Sunday's trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers. And one of their biggest fans this season is his older brother, Sam.
“We are really close,” the Reading striker said in a piece with The Athletic.
“We will talk most days, about not a lot, and we speak after every game. He was my best man. Meeting up is a bit trickier now — but I get to see him on telly!
“I’m not sure it has sunk in for him how big an achievement it is to have scored in the Premier League. The run they are going on at the moment as well is incredible.”
United travel to Molineux unbeaten in six games, bouncing back in fine style from their heartbreaking home defeat to champions-elect Liverpool. The younger Baldock has faced the likes of Son and Harry Kane; Salah, Mane and Firmino; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette so far this season. His latest assignment was against the front three of Anthony Martial, Daniel James and Marcus Rashford; a far cry from his days at Vestmannaeyjar, just off the south coast of Iceland.
“That helped him grow,” Sam added. “At all his other clubs he was still living at home, so he had to go and fend for himself in a club house with a few other lads.
"If he didn’t go and buy it and cook it, he wasn’t eating, whereas mum would run around after him and he’d let her. He came back a different person.”
The brothers may be close, but the competitive instinct remains. Both came through the ranks together at MK Dons but rarely shared a pitch together, on the same team; they faced off in 2013, after Sam had moved to Bristol City and Baldock had moved to right wing, after initially playing in central midfield. The emergence of a certain Dele Alli at Stadium:MK accelerated the switch.
“I didn’t think we were going to be in contact, but I can remember the ball just drifting into the channel and I could just hear him coming, thinking, ‘He is going to try to put one on me’," Sam remembered.
"I knew he was going to try, especially in front of the MK Dons fans, and it was the first time I’d gone back since leaving, so it was a big event for the family. I wisely decided to jump out of the way. I think he would happily have taken a yellow card to put one on me.
“I came out unscathed and I ended up scoring two goals.”
Before the start of the season, George revealed the words of advice he'd gathered from his brother after his small taste of the top-flight.
"He just told me that my life will change if I'm involved in the top flight because the spotlight is completely different, and so much more heightened. But he also told me to enjoy it and embrace it.
"He's also delighted for United as well as he’s overjoyed for me on a personal level - genuinely, too - because he told me that he believed we were the best side in the Championship to watch that season."