But Gary Madine’s relationship with Bramall Lane continues to this day, the man at the centre of the furore which once made him persona non grata among the Championship club’s following has revealed; three seasons after he helped deliver Premier League football to the red and white half of the Steel City.
“He’s always asking me for shirts, ever since he’s left,” Billy Sharp, the United captain, told The Star last night. “I still speak to him every now and again and, even though everything thought he hated me and that I hated him because of something that came out once, he’s a decent enough guy and we actually get along. Plus, he was a big part of something pretty special that we were able to achieve here.”
Sharp and Madine are set to come face to face again tomorrow when United, sixth in the table after being relegated last season, continue their push for play-off qualification with a visit to Blackpool. The leading scorers for their respective teams this term, with 15 and eight goals respectively, the two men will have no interest in exchanging pleasantries before the match at Bloomfield Road - where Madine has spent the past 26 months after joining Neil Critchley’s side on a free transfer.
But afterwards, depending on how the contest unfolds, they will probably reminisce about events towards the end of the 2018/19 season when Madine, two years after a video of him insulting Sharp emerged on social media, became an instrumental member of the United squad which reached the highest level of the English game.
“I remember Chris (Wilder) who was still our manager at the time pulling me to one side and asking me if I’d mind him coming in,” Sharp said, describing the circumstances surrounding Madine’s loan move from his then employers Cardiff City. “He obviously thought I might have a problem.
“But I replied ‘There’s no issue from me’ because I’m not only a United player, I’m a United fan too, and reckoned ‘If he helps us go up, then great.’
“Right from the first training session, you could see he was going to be a real handful and that he was really up for it. And, credit to him, he didn’t shy away from coming here either. He was right up for it and I think changed a few minds about him as well.”
As Sharp admitted, Madine, who recently described his period with United as one of his “happiest” in football, wanted to “stick around a lot longer” only for Paul Heckingbottom’s predecessor to decide against offering him a permanent contract. Indeed, long before his arrival from Cardiff, there had been rumours of Madine courting a switch to United given his regular trips to their stadium, ostensibly to watch Ched Evans in action, before leaving Wednesday.
“I think everyone who comes here, they always go away with fond memories,” said Sharp, who is holding talks with United’s board about extending his deal. “He was part of a great group and a really successful group, even if it was only for a short time.”