The Sheffield United squad arrived in Malta late Monday evening, for the start of an intense pre-season training programme on the Mediterranean island. The trip supports United’s groundbreaking sponsorship deal with the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA), which enters its third season.
Kevin Blackwell put his squad through a rigorous training session at United’s Shirecliffe training complex in the morning before the team boarded the Air Malta flight.
United’s squad will be based at the Fortina Spa Resort, which is situated in Sliema. The players were greeted by temperatures of 27 degrees, as they went for a morning run around Sliema’s harbour which boasts magnificent views across to the capital city of Valletta.
The Malta FA training grounds in Ta Qali will be acting as base camp for United’s training programme. Given the hot temperatures the island enjoys during the summer period, the coaching staff have scheduled daily training sessions to take place in the early mornings and evenings.
United’s latest signings, including Maltese international Daniel Bogdanovic, will no doubt be looking forward to getting a taste of first-team life with the Blades.
United’s manager Kevin Blackwell explained: “Malta has become a second home for Sheffield United. It is beneficial for my coaching staff and players to be working in such familiar and hospitable surroundings for what is an integral part of an intense pre-season training programme.
“I’m sure added attention will be given to our Maltese signing, Bogdanovic. The fact that his introduction starts in Malta will make this a special occasion for the player. However, the tour will provide an important opportunity for all our new signings to start gelling while we prepare the whole team for the start of the new season.”
United’s pre-season preparations on the island are building towards Friday’s triangular tournament between the Blades and Maltese Premiership opposition. Hibernians FC and Vittoriosa Stars FC will play each other for the first game, which will kick-off at 7.30pm local time at the ground of Hibernians.
On Tuesday, Sheffield United manager Kevin Blackwell officially launched the Blades pre-season tour of Malta by placing his handprint in cement at St Julian’s Bay Street shopping mall. The precinct is home to the island’s very own Hollywood Boulevard-style walk of fame.
Immediately after etching his name in the island’s history, Kevin Blackwell was escorted to the five star InterContinental hotel to greet a number of United fans that had made the journey across to the heart of the Mediterranean.
Providing plenty of encouragement on how Sheffield United’s preparations were going ahead of the new season, the large contingency of Blades fans were given the low down during the Q&A appearance from Kevin Blackwell.
The intimate affair saw Kevin Blackwell joined by club Chairman Kevin McCabe, United’s CEO Trevor Birch and new signing Daniel Bogdanovic. The panel answered questions on a variety of subjects that ranged from United’s new signings, pre-season preparations and the Blades ultimate goal of returning back to the Premiership.
“Today has been a real eye opener,” said 22 year-old Blades fan Michael Hart. “We all appreciated getting an insight into the manager’s plans ahead of the season. It was also fascinating to get the thoughts of Kevin McCabe, Trevor Birch and Bogdanovic. It really feels the club is moving in the right direction and everyone has good ideas about where the club is going.
“We have made so many friends with the Maltese. It is a fantastic island and everyone is so friendly. It’s been the perfect start to our trip!”
Kevin Blackwell said: “It has certainly has been an eventful first day in Malta. The welcome we have received from the Maltese people has once again been overwhelming.
“Meeting up with some of our fans that travelled across to Malta was a great way to start our visit. However, it’s important that we keep focussed on completing a crucial stage of our pre-season preparations and the hard work starts now.”
The Sheffield United Supporters Club Malta has been set-up recently. Those interested in joining the supporters club should phone 98120590 or visit the website http://sufcmalta.weebly.com/