Sheffield United: How the international Blades fared during the 'break' and if they're ready to face Stoke City

Six members of Sheffield United’s squad were selected to represent their countries at senior level or under-21 level during the international break.

Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 11:35 am

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As Paul Heckingbottom’s side prepare to resume their push for promotion with a visit to Stoke City this weekend, The Star’s James Shield analyses how they fared, how long they featured for and whether or not travel should be an issue ahead of a clash which pits fifth versus 15th in the Championship table.

Morgan Gibbs White (England under-21’s): One of United’s most influential players this term - make that the most influential if captain, leading goalscorer and joint top assist maker Billy Sharp fails to recover from the hamstring complaint he sustained against Barnsley earlier this month - he started both of the Young Lions’ games across the break.

Sheffield United midfielder Sander Berge featured twice for Norway: Darren Staples / Sportimage

After featuring for nearly an hour against Andorra, scoring during the 4-1 win at AFC Bournemouth, the 22-year-old then claimed an assist as Lee Carsley’s side remained on course to qualify for the European Championships by beating Albania 3-1 in Elbasan.

Heckingbottom will have been pleased, however, to see Gibbs-White being substituted during both of those outings. Overall, he played a total of 129 minutes of football.

Distance Travelled: 2590 miles.

Rhys Norrington-Davies and Adam Davies (Wales): Both players watched from the bench as Wales edged to within one win of qualifying for a World Cup finals for the first time since 1958 by beating Austria in Cardiff.

On-loan from Aston Villa, Conor Hourihane was selected by the Republic of Ireland: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

Davies, the former City goalkeeper, would ordinarily have started Tuesday’s meeting with the Czech Republic. However, with Wayne Hennessy winning his 100th cap, Davies was introduced with half an hour remaining.

Norrington-Davies did complete the 1-1 draw with Jaroslav Silhavy’s side. With United set for a gruelling end to the season, and now being a regular at wing-back, Heckingbottom’s concerns about fatigue are likely to have been allayed by the fact both of those fixtures - the game against the Czechs was a friendly - took place in the Welsh capital.

Distance Travelled: 298 miles.

John Egan and Conor Hourihane (Republic of Ireland): Egan started - and finished - Ireland’s friendlies against Belgium and Lithuania, meaning he has not enjoyed a rest of any sort over the past fortnight. However, like Wales, Stephen Kenny’s men staged both of those matches on home soil.

Sheffield United's John Egan (left) completed both games for Stephen Kenny's side: Simon Bellis / Sportimage

The meeting with Roberto Martinez’s side ended in a 2-2 draw while the visitors from the Baltic were beaten 1-0.

Hourihane was an unused substitute when Belgium visited Dublin. However, he did complete the win over Valdas Ivanauskas’ men; featuring alongside Alan Browne in midfield.

Distance Travelled: 394 miles.

Sander Berge (Norway): Recalled by his country following an encouraging run of form at club level, which confirms he is now over the injury which affected him at the start of the campaign, Berge took part in the first-half of his country’s 9-0 win over Armenia. They were reduced to 10 men early on, meaning Stoke Stalbakken’s men were already four goals to the good by the time Berge was substituted.

Morgan Gibbs-White, on loan from Wolves, enjoyed a productive stay with England's under-21 squad: Darren Staples / Sportimage

Berge also started the 2-0 victory over Slovakia four days earlier. Again, that contest was a friendly and staged in Oslo. Berge has played 116 minutes of football since his last outing for United.

Distance Travelled: 1290 miles.

Rhys Norrington Davies is on the verge of travelling to the World Cup finals: Andrew Yates / Sportimage
Wayne Hennessey is replaced by Adam Davies, who returns to his former club Stoke City with Sheffield Unietd this weekend: Michael Steele/Getty Images