Sheffield United: What happens when a new signing arrives at Bramall Lane and why this ritual is so important

George Baldock (left) with captain Billy Sharp: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
George Baldock (left) with captain Billy Sharp: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

When Kieran Dowell and Gary Madine reported for duty at the Steelphalt Academy earlier this month, they were met by a small delegation of senior players.

The purpose of these meetings, which took place in the corridor leading to the training complex's changing area, was to outline an unwritten but important code of footballing conduct. Explain, in layman's terms, exactly what is expected of Sheffield United's squad members.

"I've seen quotes by the manager where he says the dressing room runs itself and that's so true," George Baldock said, confirming both of his new team mates have settled quickly at Bramall Lane. "He trusts us and we trust them, the gaffer and his staff. Everyone here is on the same level."

That consensus has been one of United's greatest weapons since Chris Wilder's appointment two-and-a-half years ago. Indeed, as they prepare to face opponents with a £12m signing languishing on the bench, it is arguably the biggest reason why United's squad will enter Saturday's game against Swansea City ranked second in the Championship and above every club in receipt of a PL parachute payment.

"He (Wilder) recruits really well and gets people in who can play our system," Baldock continued. "But there's a consistency and, day in day out, we just work really hard. We put everything on the line, every single day, to try and be successful for each other and this football club. Having that kind of mind set, for me, it's huge."

Wilder takes great pride in the character of his squad, extolling its members' virtues on a regular basis.

Chris Basham in action for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Chris Basham in action for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

"We don't ask anyone to run around here," he said after defender Baldock and his team mates beat Queens Park Rangers last weekend. "They just do it. It's expected."

But there is another reason, other than ensuring players take responsibility for their own performances and actions, why Wilder encourages the likes of captain Billy Sharp, Chris Basham and Richard Stearman, to help implement United's ground rules; as anecdote involving his predecessor Neil Warnock illustrates.

Midway through his reign at Bramall Lane, Warnock, who had a predilection for signing supposedly unmanageable players, recruited one with a particularly troublesome reputation. Yet, rather than explaining bad behaviour would not be tolerated himself, Warnock tasked Robert Page and Shaun Murphy, two physically imposing but impeccable professionals, to oversee the new arrival's development instead. The reason being, as a football manager's in-tray became increasingly heavy, that he did not want to be bothered by every minor rule breach the youngster in question might commit. But if Page and Murphy had to ask for help, Warnock calculated, then United would have to get rid. Although the player in question eventually did leave South Yorkshire, it was for footballing rather than disciplinary reasons.

"There's a really good feeling among the group here," Baldock, the former MK Dons defender, said. "We all look out for each other on and off the pitch and, to be honest, I don't think you can buy something like that. It's worth a lot."

Richard Stearman (centre): Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Richard Stearman (centre): Simon Bellis/Sportimage

An unused substitute against Queens Park Rangers last weekend, Madine is expected to make his United debut at the Liberty Stadium where Graham Potter, Wilder's opposite number, could select Wilfried Bony despite declaring the Ivorian surplus to requirements. Bony, signed from SBV Vitesse for £12m in 2013 before returning, via Manchester City, for the same fee at the beginning of last season, is reportedly the subject of interest from China after struggling for both form and fitness this term.

Dowell, who like Madine has joined United on loan, appeared during the second-half of United's win over Rangers.