Chris Wilder on David McGoldrick: “I’d like to think people trust my judgment. He’s a proper footballer.”
This was NOT after McGoldrick’s winning goal for Sheffield United last Saturday. It was during a pre-season chat. Which makes it all the more relevant to the main
point underscored by the 30-year-old striker’s exemplary line-leading performance in the dramatic but deserved 3-2 victory over Preston that sends the Blades to Millwall in fourth place this weekend.
Now, this manager is not infallible. His decision, at considerable expense, to take Ben Woodburn on loan from Liverpool will be put to the test in the coming weeks after an unconvincing start in the youngster’s limited appearances so far.
Another forward, a more traditional type in Conor Washington, will be assessed on whether he is the calibre of signing to put genuine pressure on McGoldrick, Billy Sharp and Leon Clarke
for the front positions. Currently far too early to say.
On top of that, Wilder admits he got it wrong when, in response to having two games in four days, he made sweeping changes to an in-the-groove team for what transpired to be a flat goalless draw with Birmingham. “Lessons learned from my point of view.”
However, all learning in life comes from mistakes and, let’s face it, there have been precious few in his 101 league games as Blades boss. So when Wilder pleaded for trust in pre-season, after
a scornful reaction to signing a player of some repute, he was entitled to expect it.
The fact is that not every signing of a manager’s tenure will be a success. Ched Evans is out at Fleetwood while James Wilson, who flopped on loan from Manchester United last season, is now spending time with Aberdeen. Woodburn is facing a similar challenge to adapt from mostly academy football to the sharp-edge Championship, although, at 18, his talent and potential is unquestioned.
Last January’s window signings, Lee Evans and Ryan Leonard, didn’t quite cut it, albeit you couldn’t say they failed exactly. But they were of an age when they could be moved on quickly, and at a profit,to accommodate later arrivals – and that removes the minus. Enda Stevens and George Baldock are among balancing pluses, along with a real personality goalkeeper in Dean Henderson.
Then you come to the Jack O’Connells, Leon Clarkes and Mark Duffys. Marvellous acquisitions. Every indication now that the already imposing John Egan and midfield orchestrator Oliver Norwood will fall into the same category, plus Marvin Johnson after a promising start. And McGoldrick.
Because he arrived unattached, seeking a club, the former Ipswich, Nottingham Forest and Southampton striker carried a stigma. But he is indeed a “proper footballer,” linking play superbly. His winning goal versus Preston, just his second for the Blades, was personally important, though. After 387 appearances, McGoldrick is still just short of a century of careers goals (97).
But who’s to say that, like Clarke last season (still to register this time), he can’t become a regular scorer in this expansive Blades set-up? And who’s to say that Wilder, with his team “fourth in a division of big powerful Championship sides”, doesn’t know what he’s doing? Is it even a question?