Sheffield United, while enjoying a few days of warm weather training in Spain during the international break, were denied the chance to study Luis Enrique’s national team at close quarters.
The Blades party moved out just as Sergio Ramos, David De Gea et al were jetting in ahead of their Euro 2020 qualifier against Norway in Valencia.
“They booted us out,” joked Chris Wilder to The Yorkshire Post about United’s recent stay at the Parador de El Saler complex. “We had to get out of our rooms at 7am so they (Spain) could move in and train.
“The hotel were painting doors, cutting the grass and filling the pool. They were doing that as we were stood in reception, checking out.”
United’s early departure may have meant no opportunity to meet or even watch Spain’s stars in action.
But George Baldock, chasing a third promotion of his career, is in no doubt as to the value of those few days in the sunshine as the Championship prepares to resume after a fortnight’s break.
“There were no international breaks during my two previous promotions,” said the 26-year-old wing-back, part of the MK Dons and Oxford United squads to come up out of League One and League Two in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
“So, this was different. Breaks are part of the Championship and I think the timing was good for us.
“We had played a really tough game against Brentford (on March 12), when we were up against a brilliant side with 10 men for the majority of the game.
“Then, to go to Leeds – also a really, really good side – where the pitch was quite boggy meant we had two games where we ran around a lot. You could say it was a good time to have a break on the back of that.
“It allowed us to rest up and assess what we can do better. Getting away was good, too. A chance to do something different and enjoy some team bonding.
“We had a bit of training, some nice food and got some sun as well at a really nice hotel. It was perfect, to be honest.
“All the boys have come back into training, feeling really sharp.”
The proof of that, of course, will come today at home to Bristol City. Wilder, cutting a relaxed figure yesterday at United’s Shirecliffe training ground, could not resist quipping: “If we are 3-0 down after 10 minutes this weekend it will have been a waste of time.”
As you get to the business end of the season, you trust in the process and trust in what has got you there in the first place. That is echoed by the gaffer here.Sheffield United’s George Baldock
Bearing in mind the Blades’ recent form, few will seriously be expecting such a scenario. Wilder’s men have lost just once in 15 games since Christmas, collecting 36 points along the way.
Victory at Leeds United a fortnight ago means automatic promotion is in their own hands.
“The two promotions are not so much about what you learn,” said Baldock when asked how his previous experience can help in these final eight games.
“More that, as you get to the business end of the season, you trust in the process and trust in what has got you there in the first place.
“That is echoed by the gaffer here. You will not see us change our approach, just because we are in the last few games of the season.
“We are here because we deserve to be in this position. Hard work and doing the right things have earned us that.
“It is relatively straight forward at this club because the gaffer keeps you level-headed and grounded. Never too low and never too high.
“He does that by how he has recruited the right sort of people. Not just players but people. No-one gets above their station. They are just willing to work hard and put everything on the line.
“A lot of it stems from just working hard.
“This is a fantastic dressing room. All very good friends. I know a lot say that but it is honestly true.
“A dressing room full of honest, hard-working and talented players. There are no Big Time Charlies and no-one steps out of line.
“If they did, they would be put back in line by the skipper (Billy Sharp). Or the senior lads. And, most definitely, the gaffer.”
Baldock’s first promotion came at Milton Keynes, the club he joined as a boy a few years after brother Sam.
There were some stellar names in the Dons side who finished as runners-up in League One and also knocked Manchester United out of the League Cup.
“That MK team was quite young,” he recalls. “But we were blessed with some really, really good players at that level.
“Dele Alli was one, Benik Afobe another. Lewis Baker, Rob Hall, some really good individuals and everything just clicked.
“The back end of that season was not so much leaning on the older players, because there were only a few of them. Instead, the key was a good dressing room.”
Baldock’s elder brother Sam had left stadium:mk by then. He moved to West Ham United in 2011 but injury meant another switch, this time to Bristol City, 12 months later.
The 30-year-old striker is now at Reading, meaning the two siblings are fighting it out at either end of the Championship. This may leave some to expect football dominating the agenda when the Baldocks speak but the opposite is the case.
“He is delighted when we win,” added Baldock junior. “But, to be honest, because he knows the process we are going through – and has been there and done it before – he knows not to really talk too much about it.
“When we are here (at Shirecliffe), it is really intense. We work really hard and when you go home you want to chill out and relax. He knows that so that probably makes him the perfect person to lean on. He doesn’t want to talk about it, either.”