City’s star teams
So... exactly who is “nothing really” without their star striker?
Exhibit one, the goal charts: Jordan Rhodes 35, Ched Evans 25, Bradley Wright-Phillips 21, Stuart Beavon 18, Gary Madine 17.
Which of the teams boasting those League One hotshots are really firing on ALL cylinders? And which ones aren’t? On figures alone, Wright-Phillips’ Charlton and Madine’s Sheffield Wednesday stand out for non-reliance. . . while fourth-bottom Wycombe have been woeful in their lack of support for main man Beavon.
If goalscorers make all the difference in a promotion race - and they can - the standings at the top of the table are slightly askew.
Then there’s the bombshell Madine lobbed into the mix in using his admiration of Evans to take a pop at Sheffield United as “nothing” without him. Which has to be pure bravado and propaganda because, as John McEnroe would have told him, “you cannot be serious.”
There is, of course, no such thing as a one-man team. But there are teams where one player makes more difference than in others.
Take Huddersfield. Take Rhodes OUT and I suspect they’d be nowhere near the promotion picture. Not everyone will agree (see Lee Bullen’s column), but that’s been my impression on the several occasions I’ve seen this phenomenal marksman turn modest, even mediocre team displays into points.
To me, that’s what separates the two Sheffield clubs from their closest Yorkshire rivals - though it does depend on Dave Jones’ Owls team keeping a certain striker relatively quiet, as did the Blades, in the big game at the Galpharm on Saturday. Leaders Charlton have not over-relied on Wright-Phillips; yet half of Sheffield might join Madine in arguing that is not true of United and Evans. In that respect there is no denying either of two things.
One, Evans has to be the top performing player at this level right now. Two, United have cause for concern if the impending off-field issue impacts on their benefit from a truly fantastic and arguably irreplaceable matchwinner. But I have always felt that if Evans is the cherry on the top, Danny Wilson still has a pretty rich cake underneath. He’ll have been planning for all eventualities and, with pacy Bolton striker Michael O’Halloran on board, I believe the Blades have the all-round quality to go the wire in any event. Add to this the extra motivation of stuffing Madine’s jibe back down his throat. And so to Hillsborough where the Owls’ man of the moment, on a run of five goals in six games, has hit a timely return to top form supported by some explosive wingplay from Michail Antonio and Jermaine Johnson. At no stage have Wednesday looked a team which can be undermined by stopping one player. It’s what can make them so dangerous in the run-in with several big talents coming together at a crucial time. If there is such a thing as a one-man team then, for me, the closest to it is Huddersfield.
Thanks for the memories Barrie
In the season Barnsley gatecrashed the Premiership, another miracle was happening at nearby Chesterfield who - unbelievably as it still seems - reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 1997.
Barrie Hubbard was on the board of the Spireites, as he has been for most of the last three decades.
Hubbard’s retirement as Chesterfield chairman and director is not just the end of an era for one club. The 73-year-old is among the last of his type. Barrie is not a butcher, baker or candlestick maker - a printer actually - but he is a throwback to a time when most boards were run by local businessmen who were fans of their club.
More’s the pity, they are a dying breed. . . genuine custodians whose investment was emotional and not commercial. Hubbard’s record more than balances; three promotions, three relegations, two Wembley play-offs, the JP Trophy and, unforgettably, Old Trafford ‘97.
Hubbard would not have recruited Dave Allen if he did not think the ex-Owls boss shared similar core values about a club’s value to the community. Majority shareholder Allen is set to become a reluctant chairman for the second time, having stepped into a storm at Hillsborough and subsequently vowed to take a lower profile in his next football venture.
Expect Allen to take a firm hand on the tiller in his belief that relegation-bound Chesterfield can still achieve his five-year plan for Championship football. But I feel he will see director Ashley Carson and chief executive Chris Turner as the long-term future of the club. Meantime, happy retirement Barrie - and thanks for the memories.
Owls striker only mad for goals
Gary Madine doesn’t care how you pronounce his surname - as long as it rhymes with “goal machine.”
I hear the Sheffield Wednesday striker has always previously called himself - and answered to - “Mad - I - ne” as in “aye” rather than “ee.” But that wouldn’t quite scan with the chant on Owls’ fans lips right now. And Gary’s not about to demand a correction!
Barnsley’s Brazilian chapter a tribute to Danny
Danny Wilson’s first chairman as a manager - and the first to appoint him to the role - has no doubt his former Barnsley boss will finish the job at Sheffield United. By that he means not just win promotion this season but become a top manager during his time at Bramall Lane.
Ex-Oakwell chief John Dennis, whose backing of Wilson led to the Reds enjoying a fairytale season in the Premier League, confides: “The only surprise for me is that Danny hasn’t gone on to become one of the game’s top managers. I still believe he’s got it in him. Sheffield United is a fantastic platform and I think he will achieve that with them.”
Dennis has a book out based on his 14 years as Oakwell chief which contains a soothing message for all the nail-biters among Blades fans. He told me this week : “On April 27th (the day before United’s final home game against Stevenage) it will be exactly 15 years since Barnsley beat Bradford City to get into the Premiership. In the build-up Danny was the coolest, calmest, most together person at the ground. He was totally nerveless.”
But for all that relaxed demeanour, there is a touch of feistiness lurking beneath - as readers of my own recent publication will attest! “Danny is a super guy - a thoroughly decent, honest bloke who plays the game in the right way,” says Dennis. “But he’s a tough little bugger as well.
Danny came to Barnsley as assistant to Viv Anderson. When Viv left to join Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough, Danny’s determination and quality as a football person came through. It was a no-brainer appointing him.”
John’s book, which spans his joining of the board in 1984 to his departure in 2003, is a must-read for Reds fans. More when I get a chance to review it.
Written with Matthew Murray, it’s called “John Dennis: The Oakwell Years” and is sub-titled “It was sometimes like watching Brazil.” Only sometimes John?