Sheffield United: The unconventional methods behind David McGoldrick’s resurgence

Earlier this week, at the Republic of Ireland's training base on the outskirts of Dublin, David McGoldrick sat down with journalists who had come to preview their country's forthcoming games against Gibraltar and Georgia.

Friday, 22nd March 2019, 12:34 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd March 2019, 4:54 pm

There was plenty to catch up on. Two years have passed since the Sheffield United centre-forward last appeared for his national team.

And as they chewed the fat, pouring over the details of his exploits with Chris Wilder's promotion-chasing side, McGoldrick made some surprising admissions.

The most intriguing, other than the fact he needed a "kick up the a**e" after being released by Ipswich Town, was the fact Bill Knowles, the renowned reconditioning specialist, regularly contacts him via email.

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Knowles, whose client list includes Frank Lampard, Andy Murray, Callum Wilson and Tiger Woods, has built an enviable reputation for his work with injured athletes.

And injuries, following a frustrating end to his career at Portman Road, were something McGoldrick had come to know far too much about until being put in touch with the Philadelphia based guru.

McGoldrick has won an army of new admirers since arriving at Bramall Lane during the close season, scoring 12 goals in 37 appearances and forcing his way back into the Irish-fold alongside United team mates John Egan, Enda Stevens and Scott Hogan.

Chris Wilder's brand of football has undoubtedly helped the 31-year-old rediscover his mojo while Mick McCarthy, reappointed by the FAI earlier term, is another mentor after working with him in Suffolk.

But Knowles' also plays a leading role in the story of how McGoldrick, who admitted his fitness record scared-off several potential suitors before United came calling, has transformed his footballing fortunes to such an extent he could start tomorrow's Euro 2020 qualifier against Julio Ribas’ side.

The American's unconventional methods, which reportedly focus on training movements rather than muscles, became the subject of fascination for many in the British media when pictures emerged of Murray performing handstands and cartwheels as he recovered from hip surgery emerged on social media.

"Athletic normal is a place where you can express all types of movement literacy, such as jumping, skipping, falling, stepping or lunging, without reservation and especially without pain," Knowles, who says he "sets physical puzzles for the body", explained during a recent interview.

"You could push weights above your head to build shoulder strength or core stability, but a handstand does all of those things and there is still a level of apprehension that we try to break down.

"The approach is a lot of fun and when you're in good spirits and excited about training, you move better, anticipate pain less and recover faster. It's very motivating."

Ireland will be expected to win, and win well, when they begin their Group D campaign against a team 194th in the FIFA rankings.

But Georgia, who visit to Aviva Stadium next week, could prove a trickier proposition after winning five and drawing one of their six outings in the recent UEFA Nations League.

"They make it really tough to play against," McCarthy said, ahead of the trip to Gibraltar.

"They just pack in and defend and try to catch you on the break.

“They can get on the ball and play a bit too. If we allow them to they will; they will certainly try and keep it."