Sheffield United: The two players who volunteered to sacrifice themselves for their team

Two Sheffield United players volunteered to play through the pain barrier during two crucial games in the club’s push for Championship play-off qualification.

Sunday, 20th March 2022, 11:30 am

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Speaking after a 2-0 victory over Barnsley enhanced his team’s top six credentials, manager Paul Heckingbottom revealed defender George Baldock had offered to take part in the contest despite not being fully fit.

The 44-year also told reporters that Oli McBurnie, whose superb piece of improvisation created United’s second goal, was prepared to face Blackpool on Wednesday evening despite not being fully recovered from the dead leg he suffered during their trip to Coventry City earlier this month.

With injuries still casting a shadow over United’s campaign - leading goalscorer Billy Sharp is a doubt for next month’s clash with Stoke City after damaging a hamstring against the visitors from Oakwell - Heckingbottom said: “George put himself forward for this one. But he wasn’t 100 percent so I didn’t want to take the risk. But the fact he was ready to do it tells you something.”

“It’s the same with Oli,” Heckingbottom continued. “He knows we have been struggling with so many people out but he made it clear he was up for facing Blackpool. That’s the attitude we are going to need and we’re lucky to have people who are ready to do that kind of thing. Because, let me tell you, there’s plenty in the game who wouldn’t.”

Eleven members of United’s squad missed the draw at Bloomfield Road, as a combination of conditions at their training complex and a ridiculously congested fixture schedule caused by a series of postponements over Christmas and New Year took its toll on Heckingbottom’s side. Although Enda Stevens, John Fleck and McBurnie all returned over the weekend, United are now anxiously waiting to discover if Sharp faces a prolonged absence.

“Hopefully we can get some back now,” Heckingbottom said, ahead of the international break. “Some, we know, are going to be out for the rest of it (the season). But there’s a chance we can also see a few more coming back in. Those lads, who have been getting treatment, will still be coming in.”

Oli McBurnie of Sheffield United replaces Sander Berge during the win over Barnsley: Darren Staples / Sportimage
George Baldock could return to action for Sheffield United after the international break: Paul Terry / Sportimage
Paul Heckingbottom has been grappling with a glut of injuries: Andrew Yates / Sportimage