Loan star Alex Baptiste determined to drive Sheffield United into the play-offs and beyond

AFTER seven months of heartache and frustration, Alex Baptiste was hoping for a triumphant return to action.

STEPPING IN: Alex Baptiste came on as a second-half substitute after joining the Blades on loan from Middlesbrough. Picture: Sport Image
STEPPING IN: Alex Baptiste came on as a second-half substitute after joining the Blades on loan from Middlesbrough. Picture: Sport Image

It was not to be, the 30-year-old’s debut for Sheffield United just a few hours after joining on loan from Middlesbrough ending in a home defeat.

Worse still, the 1-0 loss to Burton Albion saw the Blades fall to their joint lowest position of the season.

Baptiste, however, refuses to be downhearted after battling his way back from a double fracture to his leg suffered in a pre-season friendly at York City.

“I have been out for so long that I just want to play football,” said the 30-year-old after moving to Bramall Lane on a three-month loan deal.

“The result was not what we wanted but, from a personal level, it was really pleasing to play 25 minutes.

“When out for so long, it is heartbreaking. The injury was a serious one and this has been a long road back.

“Middlesbrough have been fantastic and I am grateful to Sheffield United for giving me a chance to play. I want to repay that.”

Baptiste, who only joined Boro last summer from Bolton Wanderers, could get an early chance to try and pay back the faith shown by Nigel Adkins, who once tried to sign the defender when in charge of Scunthorpe United.

The Blades chief was unhappy with his side’s efforts against Burton and plans changes for the weekend trip to Fleetwood Town.

Baptiste could be one of those given a start as Adkins looks to solve a problem that has dogged United for the past couple of seasons – the centre of defence.

Baptiste, for his part, looked solid on his debut from the bench as Adkins tried to spark his side into action by switching to a 4-2-4 formation after starting the night with a three-man defence.

“We were disappointed,” said the United loanee, “especially playing in front of such a big crowd. You want to win your home games.

“But we can bounce back and there is everything still to play for. The belief is there. You only have to look at the league table. Two wins on the bounce and you are right back in it. If you can get three or four, then it can take you up to third or fourth.

“If we can grind some results out, there is no reason why we can’t get into the play-off places.”

United are 12th in the table but just four points adrift of the top six.

Baptiste has previous experience of the play-offs from his time at Blackpool, whom he helped into the Premier League in the 2010 final and was then part of the team denied promotion back to the top flight at Wembley two years later.

“Sheffield United tried to sign me in the past so it is good to finally get here,” he added. “Neil Warnock was in charge and it was the year before I went to Blackpool.

“They also came in for me in a January window but Mansfield rejected the offer. So, this move has been a long time coming.

“I haven’t come here to make the numbers up. I just want to play football. Look at the stadium and the squad we have got, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be challenging for the play-offs.

“Or even go for automatic promotion. That isn’t out of the question yet. This has been a tough six months and I am not going to go out like that. I am all guns blazing.”