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George Baldock eyes the double – Premier League promotion with Sheffield United and a Greece call up

GEORGE BALDOCK is eyeing a double … promotion to the Premier League and a call-up to the Greece national team.

The Sheffield United right-back, 29, has been in superb form this season and has ambitions to play international football.

Baldock in action for Sheffield United

Aylesbury-born Baldock’s late grandmother Athanasia was Greek and moved to the UK in 1950 with his English grandfather.

And he is set to finally have all the right paperwork in place to make him eligible to play for Greece after two years of interest from their FA.

He told SunSport: “The massive hold up has been because of covid and Brexit slowing down the process.

“I’m about a week away from getting all the final things done as everything is now going in the right direction.

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“Had I been half Greek, the whole process would’ve been a lot quicker — but sadly my nan is no longer with us and there’s paperwork everywhere.

“It’s all about getting the right information to the Greek authorities but I’ve persevered with it and the finishing line is in sight.

“Hopefully I can play well enough to get in the team.”

Baldock is finally back from a one-month injury lay-off as the Blades travel to Stoke on Saturday and speculation has been rife that Greek giants Olympicos are weighing up a move.

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But he has ruled out any move — saying: “I’m extremely focussed on Sheffield United. Everyone in the city knows that.

“I’ve put everything into the club from day one when I moved here and have loved every minute of it.

“There might come a time when they no longer want me but in terms of the speculation I’m fully focussed behind this club.”

Baldock believes the only way is up under Paul Heckingbottom.

Blades boss ‘Hecky’ has been a revelation since taking over from sacked Slavisa Jokanovic in November.

At the time, the club were down in 16th place after an underwhelming start to life back in the Championship following relegation from the Premier League.

But fast forward four months they are flying, sitting in the play-off spots — having won 11 of his 19 games in charge, having only lost three of those.

Baldock said: “I’ve not got a bad word to say about Slav because he’s has a great track record in the Championship, having previously got Fulham promoted, and I’m sure he’ll be successful again with another club.

“But the moment Hecky took over, training and intensity levels went up. It all rolled into his first weekend in charge against Bristol City, we got off to a flying start and he’s been absolutely brilliant since.”

Many people at Bramall Lane believe he should have been given the job in the summer after his stint in caretaker charge last season after Chris Wilder departed.

Although the club got relegated, performances improved under Heckingbottom and won three of their last six Premier League games.

Baldock added: “There weren’t many positives to take from last season — but Hecky restored a bit of hope and faith and we picked up a bit.

“So it was no surprise to me and the players when he was reappointed this time round.

“He has done a fantastic job. We all knew him and were all comfortable around him. 

“And Hecky has carried on where he left off and been brilliant.

“The man is so passionate — as well as being an honest and respectful guy.

“He’s very intelligent and it’s only this time working and speaking with him that I realise how vast his knowledge of the game is and how he looks at things.

“His management skills are brilliant and he has everything in his armory to succeed.”

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Baldock and most of his Blades team-mates won promotion with the club three years ago — beating Leeds to the second automatic spot.

United are eight points behind second-placed Bournemouth, who have two games in hand.

Although after today’s trip to the Potteries, the Blades host QPR on Tuesday before welcoming the Cherries to Bramall Lane next weekend.

And Baldock said: “I’ve been with this group of players for the past five years and they’re mentally strong characters who are used to big-pressure games.

“Now it’s all about putting everyone together and hopefully creating something special.

“Since Hecky came in, it has just been about climbing the league and trying to gain a position.

“The season we went up, Leeds had a gap on us with a few games in hand.

“The gap is bigger now but football is a crazy game and anything can happen. Our pure focus is on climbing the table and just see how it goes.”

One player who has yet again been vital for Sheffield United is none other than talisman Billy Sharp.

Despite turning 36, the striker has fired 14 goals from his 30 Championship starts this season.

And Baldock said: “Sharpy really is like a fine wine – he just gets better with age.

“He’s like Benjamin Button and incredible.

“I’ve had this time to watch him from the stands during being injured. I see how much he runs, how fit he is and what great condition he is in.

“I can never quite understand the away fans’ chants of ‘You fat b*****d’. I can’t see where they get that from. He”s in such fit shape and runs as much as anyone. He has that quality and knows how to assist and score goals. 

“Sharpy often can tell us, ‘How are you not running when I’m doing this at the age of 36!’

“The thing about him is he backs it up. He bleeds Sheffield United blood. He’s an absolute legend and deserves all the accolades and credits he gets.

“I’m good friends with him away from the game and I see how much he cares for the club.”

Baldock’s stunning effort in the 4-0 win against Swansea won him the SkyBet goal-of-the-month gong for February.

It was his first goal since netting a winner against Norwich in the Premier League back in December 2019.

And he said: It was such a good team goal — starting back to front.

“I found myself high up the pitch. I saw Rhys Norrington-Davies was firing up a cross and had been working hard on trying to get into the box more so I had to sprint to be honest. 

“The ball fell nicely for me and it was about trying to get good contact. It flew off my boot. I saw it bounce back off the bar. I ran off and had a little look back and saw the ball cross the line.”

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