Sheffield United Column: United’s move to Gary Madine seems logical in pursuit of the Premier League – despite his links with Sheffield Wednesday 

Derek Geary, known simply as 'Del' throughout Sheffield United where he was once revered and is now highly thought of as a youth coach, tells a wonderful story of his early days at Bramall Lane after crossing the bitter divide from Steel City rivals, Wednesday.

Geary, unlike former Owls teammates Alan Quinn and Leigh Bromby, hadn't even made the switch directly, with a stop-off at Stockport inbetween. 

But as he warmed up for the first time in front of the United faithful, they let him know in no uncertain terms that they hadn't forgotten. "The abuse was pretty bad," he smiles now, and he remembers going back to the house he shared with Bromby and asking him: 'What have I done?'

Geary, Bromby and Quinn went on to become crowd favourites at Bramall Lane, all three playing a part in United's promotion in 2005/06 and subsequently playing in the Premier League, and I was reminded of Del's revelation that "winning the United fans over was one of my proudest achievements in football" today when I witnessed the vitriolic reaction on social media to news that Gary Madine, another formerly of a blue-and-white persuasion, was a target for Chris Wilder's Blades.

Speculation that that was the case had been flying around social media for days and today, we had it firmed up by sources in South Wales.

Then, to paraphrase the great Ron Burgundy in Anchorman, things escalated quickly.

Gary Madine celebrates scoring at Bramall Lane

Gary Madine celebrates scoring at Bramall Lane

My two penn'orth is that any deal - a proposed loan for the rest of the season - could work. United are third in the Championship with a budget that is nowhere near that mark and January transfer deals are usually inflated, so it's difficult to see how many others strikers at the £6m rate - the fee that Neil Warnock's Cardiff paid Bolton for Madine last January - United could feasibly attract at this moment in time, especially with the ongoing squabble in the Bramall Lane boardroom.

By this point last season Madine had scored nine goals in a struggling Bolton side - as many as the excellent David McGoldrick has netted for Wilder's brilliant Blades this term - and added another by the time he left for Cardiff.

His critics point to the fact he hasn't netted since January 20, in 19 Championship and Premier League games, but anyone who witnessed Cardiff's smash-and-grab point at Bramall Lane back in April will remember well the impact Madine had after coming off the bench.

Madine's possible arrival, in fact, echoes the arrival of James Hanson in United's promotion season from League One. Different players at a different level, granted, but tasked with doing the same job; roughing defenders up and giving United a different option.

Del Geary became a United favourite despite previously playing for Wednesday

Del Geary became a United favourite despite previously playing for Wednesday

With United tearing all before them in League One, teams simply sat deep and attempted to nullify their overloads but with Hanson as United's Plan B, opponents couldn't rely on that tactic.

It almost worked, briefly, in the Championship, too. Hanson's only second-tier appearance for United came against Fulham in November 2017, when he came off the bench with Fulham leading 4-2. Three minutes after his introduction it was five but Hanson shook up the visiting defence, had a header himself cleared off the line and United almost rescued a point, eventually losing 5-4.

Then, as now, United had a striker in rich form - Leon Clarke scored a hat-trick that night on his way to 18 for the season, Billy Sharp is one off that mark already - so 'the big man', to use footballing parlance, has a job to supplement.

In United's nine remaining home games, they face six teams who are currently in the bottom half of the table and it seems inconceivable that the likes of Reading, Ipswich and Bolton, Madine's former club, will come to Bramall Lane and play expansive football.

This is where the Madine link makes sense. If those clubs sit deep and United's magicians of Norwood, Duffy and Fleck can't find a way through, then a different option could be required. 

A lot has been made, too, of Madine's ill-advised comments, on video, aimed at Sharp in a Bolton nightclub.  “I wasn’t concerned about it, had no problem with it," was Sharp's response, when questioned on Alan Biggs' Sheffield Live TV show.

"He [Madine] texted one of the lads I play with on the Monday... as far as I was concerned it was done then.”

Water under the bridge as far as the United skipper is concerned. Wilder is publically big on priding attitude and ability and won't have deviated with that when he met with Madine, if he is indeed the figure under the black baseball cap in the picture widely circulating on Twitter.

And the United manager is certainly in credit from his transfer dealings since returning to Bramall Lane, so has surely earned the benefit of the doubt?

Not that, in my opinion, he'll need it. Madine offers United an option they don't have, and is a player in a price category they'd otherwise be unable to afford.

And, in reality, anyone questioning the validity of that fee proves the point about January inflation.

A word, too, on Madine himself. He'll know how he's viewed on the red and white side of Sheffield, yet is trying to drive the move through. How's that for character and, possibly, a new-found maturity?

As ever with a potential new signing, much is guesswork; he could flop, he could score 10 vital goals including the winner at Hillsborough (what price that?). He could, like those before him, turn out to be fondly remembered at United if he helps them over the line for promotion.

Who knows? But if Madine does end up running out at Bramall Lane in a red and white shirt, one thing can almost be guaranteed... it will surely be worth watching.