TALK UP signing the calibre of Jermaine Defoe, get Gary Madine.
But with two weeks of the January transfer window remaining, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder hinted in his programme notes for the visit of QPR that a stellar arrival is still on the cards.
Let’s hope so. Otherwise the only logical conclusion is that Sheffield United’s promotion fate is being left to chance rather than design by the men who hold the pursestrings.
“We’ve got people in mind and are keeping a very close eye on the market with regards to our potential targets,” wrote Wilder. Adding intriguingly: “What happens is that a move at Premier League level triggers things off and opens doors.” The inference being that the search for a top quality striker is still very much on.
In the meantime what to make of 28-year-old Madine’s arrival on loan from Cardiff City. An unused substitute in the 1-0 win over QPR which lifted United into an automatic promotion slot, he kept a low profile, remaining in the dug-out as teammates occasionally flexed their muscles on the touchline.
Encouragingly for him and Wilder, however, Madine’s name in the squad line-up announced over the tannoy before kick-off was greeted around the ground by a round of applause, not with much joy attached but respectful enough to drown out those who were openly hostile.
If nothing else Madine’s most fervent of critics among Blades fans – and there are many – have to admit the guy’s got balls.
Unfortunately he has had serious personal behavioural issues which have tainted and interrupted a chequered career. Coupled with an arrogance and big mouth to match.
Add to that he has failed to score at either Championship or Premier League level for Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City since joining for a reported £6million a year ago. Hence the former Blades boss’s willingness to offload him on a loan basis until the end of the season, deemed not good enough for the battle to remain in the top flight.
The last time he scored was for Bolton in the Championship on January 20, 2018. Of the 10 clubs he has played for prior to joining United Madine has totalled double figures just twice.
There are many words and phrases used by football fans on both side’s of Sheffield to describe him; unhinged, brainless, a brutal thug being the polite interpretations from the red-and-white half of the city. A United fan and a Wednesday supporter who on separate occasions ended their evening’s with broken bones will vouch for that.
Wilder, in his programme notes, quaintly described Madine’s past violent and abusive behaviour as “bits and pieces”. The victims of the vicious attacks in Sheffield resulting in Madine being convicted of grievous bodily harm and actual bodily harm sentenced to 18 months in jail will beg to differ with Wilder’s trite description. As will the guy in a Carlisle pub whom Madine earlier knocked unconscious. Madine pleaded guilty to actusl bodily harm and received a 250-hour community service order which clearly had no effect.
This is what defines Madine. Not his still questionable ability to score goals on a regular basis, but his reputation as a nasty, loud mouthed thug.
Wilder, however, insists that Madine has met his stringent character assessment. “I think it is fair to say that you cannot please everyone all of the time and Unitedites, like punters up and down the country, will have opinions on the character of players, but ultimately, with the help of a number of good people around me, I sign players for this football club and try to get as many right as possible.” A reformed man, then, who has served his punishment and is duly making amends.
Let’s hope so. What isn't in doubt is that when opportunity presents itself the striker needs to hit the ground running, otherwise there will be a rapid erosion of those willing to accept him wearing the shirt.