‘I knew within five minutes this lad had a future!’

Blades v Owls....Owls saviour late goalscorer Gary Madine with Jermaine Johnson
Blades v Owls....Owls saviour late goalscorer Gary Madine with Jermaine Johnson

It took only a brief appearance as a sub by Gary Madine to convince Colchester boss John Ward that he could have a bright future.

Ward leads the U’s to Hillsborough today but was manager of Carlisle when Madine was making his way through the ranks there.

“I could see from his days in the youth team that he was a good player in the making,” said Ward, who was with the Cumbrian outfit between 2007 and 2008. “He was around the first team a number of times.”

And Ward recalls how Madine showed professionalism beyond his years in helping the team to protect a lead.

“I remember we played at Nottingham Forest and we were winning,” says the U’s boss. “I put him on as a substitute with five minutes to go to win some headers. He picked the ball up on the halfway line and immediately ran to the corner flag.

“It sounds silly, but for an 18 or 19-year-old boy I thought ‘well done, young man’. I thought he was going to be all right this kid, and so it has proved. Gary recognised the moment in the game. He played for the team, even though as a young boy he was probably trying to make a name for himself.

“He’s going to be a very good player. He has that big-club mentality. He’s got that little bit of arrogance about him, which is necessary. He has strength as well as technique.”

Madine today comes up against a Colchester side whose defence has been weakened by suspension and injuries.

Ward says: “It’s another big test for us. But we will have a good go at trying to win. Their supporters will see us as the next fodder, to be taken in. But we’ve played okay on the road.

“Sheffield United was our real disappointment. All the others have been quite promising.”

Colchester’s only defeat in their last eight games was 3-0 at Bramall Lane last month.

“I don’t think many Sheffield Wednesday supporters will know many of our players,” he added. “They’ll be thinking ‘we will beat them.”