George Baldock could return to action against Reading this weekend, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder has revealed, after being given the all-clear to resume full training.
The former MK Dons wing-back had been expected to miss the meeting with Jaap Stam’s side due to a calf problem but will now be given every opportunity to prove his fitness before coaching staff finalise their plans for Saturday’s game.
With Kieron Freeman ruled-out for between six to eight weeks with a dislocated knee, Baldock’s recovery is a major boost for United as they attempt to close the two point gap between themselves and leaders Wolves.
Indicating Chris Basham will deputise for Freeman if Baldock fails to prove he is ready, Wilder said: “George is back out on the grass. We train at an intensity so we’ll see how he is. He’s got two days and, if he shows he’s ready, then great. If not, we’ll go with something else. Bash can play anywhere can’t he.”
United climbed to third in the Championship table when they beat Ipswich Town five days ago. The result went a long towards proving that Wilder’s squad boasts enough depth to maintain a top six challenge because it was achieved without the likes of Richard Stearman and the suspended Paul Coutts.
United had feared Freeman would be ruled-out for the rest of the season after colliding with Cameron Carter-Vickers during the closing stages of the first-half but, as The Star reported this morning, the defender is likely to return before the end of the year after doctors discovered no serious ligament damage.
“The reaction of the players around him, the staff and the fans indicated it wasn’t good,” Wilder, speaking at United’s training complex earlier today, said. “It’s good news in a way but of course we are disappointed that he’s out. With George Baldock, that’s the reason we strengthened the squad.
“Competition for places is vital. Rich was great all summer but we’ve picked-up points without him which is a good sign.”
While United were celebrating promotion from League One last season, Reading were coming to terms with losing the play-off final on penalties to Huddersfield Town.
Despite making a slow start to the present campaign. Wilder said: “We’ve got to recognise this is a team with big strengths. We are talking about a team that was a penalty kick away from getting into the Premier League last season. I never looked at the fixture list last season and thought ‘that’s three points there, a point there’ and so on. I won’t be doing it this season either.”