James Shield's Sheffield United Column: Why it was a mistake to doubt this player

Sometimes, managers, supporters and television pundits become utterly fixated by what a player can not do.

Thursday, 24th October 2019, 6:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th October 2019, 10:38 pm
Sheffield United visit West Ham on Saturday: Aaron Chown/PA Wire.

It is precisely that obsession, and a pretty unhealthy one in my book, which spawns overly detailed analysis of goals and fouls. You know the sort. 'If he'd have done that, if they hadn't have lost their balance or been rendered semi-unconscious by a terrible clash of heads, then that striker would never have benefited from that opening.' Every single match, if you follow this thought process, would end in stalemate.

David McGoldrick has also been exposed to this mania at various stages of his career. The latest being at the beginning of the Premier League campaign when, having helped Sheffield United win promotion from the Championship, he missed a hatful of opportunities during their opening four games of the season.

McGoldrick, so the theory went, lacked the finishing skills to be effective at the highest level. Admittedly, he could do with improving his shooting. But there was very little acknowledgement, from myself included, about what the Republic of Ireland centre-forward actually brings to the table.

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The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield

The answer, we discovered ahead of Saturday’s meeting with West Ham, is plenty. Far more, in fact, than what he might cost United by missing a chance or four.

After recovering from a niggling injury, McGoldrick was parachuted straight back into the starting line-up when Arsenal visited South Yorkshire on Monday. United's performances and results had been encouraging in his absence. But the difference in their dynamic, the improved levels of creativity, were immediately obvious against opponents who, rather than being tipped to find themselves battling relegation, travelled north with genuine top-our aspirations.

Although Lys Mousset was responsible for scoring the goal which put Unai Emery's men to the sword, McGoldrick's presence saw United rediscover some of the creativity which characterised their displays earlier this year. The statistics bear this out. Chris Wilder's side produce an average of 11 shots, 2.8 of which are on target, when McGoldrick features in the first-choice eleven. This compares to figures of 7.75 and two when he is left out.

Quite simply, they are more innovative and inventive when McGoldrick is at their disposal than when he is without.

David McGoldrick is a joy to watch: James Wilson/Sportimage

At this point, I feel it is only right that I register an interest. Personally speaking, watching McGoldrick perform is always a joy because, despite the aforementioned frustrations, he reminds me of a time when footballers went about their business with real freedom of expression; unconstrained by the type of suffocating tactics and rigid systems we often see employed today. Admittedly, this is stretching the point a little. But you get the impression, if Johan Cruyff or Ferenc Puskas were making their way in the sport right now, they'd find themselves being chastised for showing imagination or being a little off-the-cuff.

Perhaps, though, the greatest praise you can give McGoldrick is that Mousset clearly loved working alongside him. Just like Billy Sharp last term and recently Callum Robinson. Oh, and Oli McBurnie too. That tells you something. Something about his quality, his contribuition and importance to United's hopes in the top-flight.

Matteo Guendouzi of Arsenal and David McGoldrick: Simon Bellis/Sportimage