UPDATE: Caolan Lavery's eventual arrival at Bramall Lane had the opposite effect for Marc McNulty who was loaned to League One rivals Bradford City. A decision which has the potential to backfire on Blades boss Chris Wilder.
MARC McNULTY is likely to be the key beneficiary if striker Caolan Lavery crosses the city to join Sheffield United.
Blades manager Chris Wilder declared his admiration for the 23-year-old in a radio interview shortly after being appointed in May. Not only that, he identified the partnership of 'Sparky' McNulty and his pal Lavery when both were on loan at Portsmouth last season, as the top strikeforce in the brief time they were together in League Two. McNulty, given the chance by Wilder to re-establish his career at Bramall Lane after being exiled to Fratton Park last season by former manager Nigel Adkins, has so far had to sit on the bench. His only appearance was as a second-half substitute for Billy Sharp in the 2-1 EFL Cup defeat to Crewe.
“I saw quite a bit of him (McNulty) for Portsmouth last season. He and Lavery upfront for a period were the best in the division,” said Wilder.
Of McNulty’s chance to become the player who in 2014-15 scored 14 goals in all competitions, Wilder said: “It's up to him to hit the ground running. If he does we’ve got a really good player at a good age who can score goals. They're priceless.”
Lavery’s partnership with McNulty lasted for the three months of his loan spell in which the Wednesday striker scored four goals in 13 appearances, two from the bench. His presence in the stands for United’s 1-1 home draw against Rochdale re-enforced the belief that Wilder is keen to bring him to Bramall Lane. McNulty and Lavery played in the Pompey side which won at Wilder's Northampton last December but neither scored.
Born in Canada with parents from both sides of the Irish border, has had a chequered career since joining Wednesday’s youth development squad in 2012. The striker who has represented Canada and Northern Ireland at youth level and was called up to the senior Irish side for a friendly against Qatar in 2015, has been loaned to four clubs – Southend, Chesterfield, Plymouth and Pompey – after failing to establish himself at Hillsborough.
He drew a blank at Southend, but managed three goals apiece in eight appearances for Plymouth and the Spirites. Whilst not prolific, Wilder has clearly identified an alternative strikeforce to the Sharp/Leon Clarke partnership. Although early days, it has yet to show any sign of an understanding similar to what Sharp enjoyed with now departed youngster Che Adams.
McNulty remained frustratingly in the dugout as United scrambled a draw in what even Wilder admitted was a poor performance against Rochdale. But not before he reminded everyone, manager included, in a tweet that it was two years to the day since he scored his first goal for the Blades. A polite plea if ever there was one.
At present it is difficult to see where even first choice Matt Done, who Wilder insists will be used as a centre-forward not a wing-half despite evidence to the contrary, fits in as Clarke and Sharp look set to spearhead United’s promotion challenge.
Clinical finishing, however, has yet to be established. The door remains open for players to stake their claim. Lavery’s imminent arrival maybe the chance McNulty has been waiting for.