Alan Biggs’ Sheffield United Column: Like it or not, Gary Madine is at Bramall Lane – it’s in the best interests of Blades fans to back him now in quest for Premier League

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FA Cup humiliation, the signing of Gary Madine and a link to the events of the week. Two qualities. One a given at Sheffield United, the other hitherto absent.

The first; innovative and incredibly effective overlapping centre backs. The second; a bludgeoning presence to break down a door when the lock can’t be picked.

Taken together, they go some way to explaining a seismic few days at a previously serene Bramall Lane - defeat to non-league Barnet and Madine’s controversial arrival on loan from Cardiff.

I think there are reasons for both beyond the soundbites of shame in an experienced shadow squad and anger in some quarters at the recruitment of a former Sheffield Wednesday striker with, to say the least, a chequered past.

Taking the second first, the Blades need the Plan B of a forward of Madine’s type. For me, most arguments end there. More later.

On the first, for all the strolling ineptitude of United’s shock and thoroughly comprehensive beating by Barnet, one key part of the first team chemistry couldn’t be replicated last Sunday.

Much as the performance was shockingly poor and no player advanced his claims, it did highlight a huge ingredient of a normally fully functioning unit.

There was no Jack O’Connell and, until late from the bench, no Chris Basham either. These two outstanding performers provide a drive and devil utterly absent from the Blades last weekend.

Yes, an utterly justifiable second string line-up, packed with experience, should have have seen off the only non-leaguers (brilliant though they were) left in the competition. And no, the blame shouldn’t rest on the deputising Martin Cranie and Kean Bryan.

Yet, without a supporting threat from wide centre backs (cleverly put on the back foot by Darren Currie’s side), United were utterly bereft of ideas and purpose.

Gary Madine signs on loan for the rest of the season for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Gary Madine signs on loan for the rest of the season for Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Second point. Had Madine been available instead of watching from the stand, would he have been thrown on? You bet.

Okay, rivalries are an essential part of football’s appeal, not least to the media. Thus the inevitable tribalism can be whipped up rather than discouraged.

Fair to say the move for ex-Owl Madine polarised United’s support. Whether Chris Wilder knowingly taking such a step at a time of almost total unity was a risk worth taking is debatable.

But on two things there is no doubt. Wilder has totally earned the benefit of any doubt as one of the finest managers in the Blades history. And if you’re in the market for muscle up front, you’d have to look at Madine, a £6m striker from Premier League Cardiff.

Bramall Lane has seen evidence to United’s cost. There was Madine’s winning goal in a dominant line-leading performance for Bolton midway through last season and then a strong impact from the bench as Cardiff grabbed an undeserved draw.

Also, at 28, there’s more latent quality in Madine than you’d imagine. I’ve seen him hit a couple of extraordinary long-range goals for Bolton.

His goal ratios are not great (28 in 113 appearances, including subs, for Wednesday, 26 in 97 for Bolton). But hasn’t David McGoldrick massively improved his strike rate in a team offering more chances?

And isn’t Wilder still seeking another type of top notch striker more in the mould of Jermain Defoe, a target lost to Glasgow Rangers?

As for the Madine bad lad bit, Wilder takes pride in having created a dressing room of strong characters who largely police themselves. Led by Billy Sharp, who swiftly brushed off that social media spat of a couple of years ago, as he made clear within days on my Sheffield Live show. 

Madine won’t have too much room for tolerance. But if he’s prepared to take on the challenge of hitting the ground running in a potentially hostile atmosphere then it’s in your team’s best interests to back him. Starting at home to QPR on Saturday as United resume their promotion quest.