GARY MADINE is the last player most Sheffield United fans would wish or expect to see wearing a Blades shirt. But the Cardiff City and former Sheffield Wednesday striker has passed a medical and is expected to sign a loan deal early this week.
Manager Chris Wilder confirmed that Madine was at Bramall Lane for United’s humiliating FA Cup defeat to non-league Barnet and it is believed that senior players were consulted before a decision was taken to press ahead with a deal.
A striker has been at the top of Wilder’s hit-list in the January transfer window, but many fans will be dismayed that Madine is being seen as the calibre of player who might dislodge either Billy Sharp or David McGoldrick in United’s pursuit of Premier League football.
Wilder prides himself on insisting that any player he signs can demonstrate a good character and ability to fit in. Hardly a study that easily describes Madine.
The 28-year-old was jailed for 18 months in 2013 and had his contract at Wednesday terminated after he was found guilty of punching two men in separate Sheffield nightclub attacks.
Madine, who has undergone a course to deal with anger management, had a previous conviction for knocking out a man in a Carlisle pub for which he was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service. In 2012 he punched a Wednesday fan in a Sheffield bar, breaking his nose. Four weeks later, he punched Blades supporter Reece Hall at a Sheffield venue, shattering his cheekbone.
Prosecutors told a jury in Leeds that Madine turned into "an arrogant, violent thug" when drunk. The players own defence lawyer said he had thrown away his talent due to “drink, childish behaviour and a temper problem.” Adding: “He is not an asset to his club any more.”
Madine was openly antagonistic to United and their fans during his time at Hillsborough. I remember him offering a V-sign behind his back to the massed ranks in the Leppings Lane end during the derby match there in 2012. His appearances at Bramall Lane are routinely jeered every time he touches the ball.
Add to that he hasn’t scored a single goal for Cardiff since joining them from Bolton a year ago, news of his arrival makes uncomfortable reading. He made five Premier League appearances for former Blades boss Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds who won promotion last season, but is regarded very much as a fringe player in South Wales. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Madine himself has been behind making a move back to Sheffield.
“I’ve said to him ‘go and get my old club up and get them promoted’, Warnock revealed at the weekend. “He’s felt such a heavy load on his head here, starting with missing a penalty [against promotion rivals Wolves in April] but sometimes it’s good to wipe the slate clean. Financially it’s very good for us as well. Everything is fully paid up and there are incentives for them going up as well.”
After much talk from Wilder about bringing in a top quality striker to help keep United’s promotion bid firmly on track – they are third in the Championship table two points short of an automative promotion spot and four behind leaders Leeds United – it can only be hoped that Madine is not the prime objective and that the manager still has someone of much better quality in the pipeline.
One thing is for sure, if Madine doesn’t hit the ground running there will be no mercy shown from the stands. But if he manages to strike regularly and make a difference old scores will be quickly forgotten. That’s the way of football. The thought of this particular striker firing United into the top flight would for many still be a bitter-sweet experience.
Stranger things have happened, or have they?