There's new talent in Toon!

GARY Madine has already been described by Huddersfield manager Lee Clark as the Andy Carroll of the lower divisions.

But Alan Irvine believes that his new centre-forward could also emulate Carroll by becoming a top-class star.

Madine has a lot of work to do yet of course. He is only 20 and a League One striker.

Carroll is two years older and needed time to develop into a Newcastle first-teamer and England international.

But Irvine sees real potential in the target man who challenges for a debut at Leyton Orient tomorrow after joining the Owls for an initial fee of 400,000 from Carlisle.

"Gary has trained very well, scored some terrific goals in training so far and held the ball up well - those are things I thought he could do," said the Wednesday manager.

"I've known Andy Carroll for a long time: when I was academy director at Newcastle, he was one of the babies. I also had him on loan at Preston when I first went there.

"I know what he's developed into. I'm hoping that Gary will develop into the same quality of player; I think he's got the potential to do that."

Madine has time on his side. He has a four-and-a-half-year contract, and he and the Owls hope to be back in the Premier League during his Hillsborough stay.

But will he go straight into the team at Brisbane Road tomorrow, or start on the bench?

That is one of several questions that Irvine will not answer until his team sheet is issued tomorrow afternoon.

Whatever happens, a couple of his four strikers are set to be disappointed.

Neil Mellor, top scorer with 13 goals, was taken off at half-time of last week's 2-2 draw with Charlton; he and Clinton Morrison, who has eight goals, played key roles in the second half rout of Bristol City a fortnight ago and could offer strong cases to remain in the team.

Paul Heffernan, a regular sub, scored for the second successive home game last week after replacing Mellor, and but for a sensational save would have headed a last-minute winner. If that had gone in, it would be hard to imagine him not being in tomorrow's team, and he may yet get a place.

Irvine said: "He's shown good form when he's come on. I think he did very well last weekend. He's staking a stronger claim now that he may have done at any other time."

The four frontmen offer several possible permutations; if Irvine wanted to try something completely new, then that would be a tall target man, Madine, with Heffernan playing off him.

Defender Mark Reynolds is challenging for a debut at left-back after his 100,000 arrival from Motherwell.

But he has suffered a slight snag in his first week with the Owls.

"He came in with a bit of a hamstring strain," Irvine explained yesterday, "He didn't train on Monday and Tuesday, but he has had treatment, he's been assessed, and he's trained this morning. Hopefully he'll be okay."

With a crowded fixture programme coming up, it is likely that Reynolds will not be thrown in tomorrow if there is the slightest risk of a niggle resurfacing or becoming something worse.

Jermaine Johnson could be in contention for a left-wing or right-wing start after his second-half bursts against Charlton, while Irvine will also ponder whether or not to play Lewis Buxton so soon after his recovery from hamstring trouble.

Got a view? Leave a comment below.

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