Ched, Gary and a jinking ghost of Rodney Marsh ...

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TWO seasons ago Ched Evans couldn’t score a goal to save himself.

At that time Fernando Torres was the best striker in Europe.

Evans was then part of Sheffield United’s slide into relegation from the Championship and Andy Carrol was 6ft 3in of pony-tailed unplayability smacking in goals with the confidence and elan of a young Duncan Ferguson (but not as good).

There is a gulf in class between the Premier league and League One but the turn-around in a striker’s fortunes can be remarkable.

As one lifelong Blade in the office said, no-one has hit a ball harder at Bramall Lane since Alan Woodward.

It’s all about confidence.

Now we watch Match Of The Day through our fingers as Carroll goes from bad to embarrassing and Torres gets excited about one goal in 15 games.

But Ched chugs on.

With 31 goals this season, he’s the single most important reason why United are in the second promotion place and the highest goalscorers in Britain.

Yesterday Wednesday hitman Gary Madine - who’s no slouch himself in front of goal - boldly said that ‘without Ched Evans United are nothing, really’.

Fighting talk perhaps but it might be argued that he is similarly vital to the Wednesday cause.

There were some interesting numbers highlighted in the Hartlepool programme for Sheffield United’s visit to Victoria Park on Saturday.

Bramall Lane was named as the top place in the division to see goals - 65 this season compared to 57 at Hillsborough.

United’s Evans is the striker who’s had most shots in League One this season with 104 and the most shots on target with 68. Midfielder Stephen Quinn has most goal assists with 13.

United have also scored more goals than any other team in all the four divisions and are apparently fourth top scorers in Europe.

Wednesday on the other hand - perhaps harking back to their more functional early-season style - are the team who have committed the most fouls with 492 and have the player who has committed the most fouls.

Take a bow Jose Vitor Semedo with 74.

For teams second and third in the table that does seem a remarkable contrast.

But then of course Wednesday might be second or third at all those good things and United might be just behind the Owls in fouls committed.

That’s stats for you.

A lifetime ago in 1972 Manchester City bought Rodney Marsh from Queens’ Park Rangers for £400,000 to give them the extra quality they needed to win the league.

They were four points clear when he got there but his dribbling slow-the-game-down style disrupted City’s flow and they ended up fourth with Derby County winning the title.

You can’t help but see a bit of Rodney Marsh - and Newcastle’s Faustino Asprilla - in Mario Balotelli.

Tino Asprilla went to Tyneside in the Keegan era and he too was meant to be the finishing touch to an excellent Toon team.

But he had the opposite effect.

Mario Balotelli might yet win the Premier League for Manchester City with his sultry flights of genius.

But the problem is when you’re as much trouble as he is you have to be twice as good as anyone else just to get a game.

At this stage it doesn’t look as though he is.