Sheffield United: How Gary Madine can help make Chris Wilder’s tactical pioneers even tougher for opponents to fathom

Gary Madine has signed on loan for the rest of the season: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Gary Madine has signed on loan for the rest of the season: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Given that Chris Wilder has won more league matches than any other manager in the top four tiers of English football over the past three years, it is fair to say he knows a thing or two about systems and making them work.

So hearing him describe how Gary Madine, Sheffield United's latest new signing, can fit into the club's pioneering strategy made for fascinating listening ahead of tomorrow's game against a resurgent Queens Park Rangers.

After a four minute long monologue about morality, maturing as a person and putting any personal reservations about the centre-forward's presence aside, Wilder turned to arguably more pressing matters as his third-placed team enters the business end of the season; namely what Madine can bring to a club whose game-plan revolves around the supposedly absurd notion of pairing attacking wing-backs with over-lapping centre-halves.

"Because of where he plays, because of his position, I think he knows it's not going to be a case of us defending our own crossbar and possibly getting one or two chances along the way," Wilder said. "Gary can bully defenders but he's also technically good as well. It's an extremely positive signing in a difficult market.

"He brings something different to the table, gives us another option. Gary will be the first to know he's got a fight on his hands to get in the team. He's got to get through Billy (Sharp) and Didzy (David McGoldrick). But he'll be looking to play a big part and I'm looking for him to play a big part."

Wilder suspects, it quickly became apparent as he waxed lyrical at the Steelphalt Academy, that the qualities Madine possesses could prove invaluable to his squad during the second-half of the campaign. Two points behind Norwich City in second and eight above Rangers who travelled north yesterday in ninth, there is a feeling among United's coaching staff that the meeting with Steve McClaren's men marks the start of a challenging period; both in a tactical and psychological sense.

"I don't see many people at home coming out to have a real go at us anymore," Wilder said. "We've always had the ability to change things around.

"We're in a good position up there at the moment, I think. Billy is a box player and does what he does. Didzy links things up, Leon (Clarke) has a good all-round game and Conor (Washington) likes the ball to go in behind. Gary has a different approach to all of those."

"It's always, with the younger element, the flip of a coin," Wilder, who is expected to name both Madine and fellow new arrival Kieran Dowell in his squad, continued. "I don't think it was time to go young. 

"Kieran has had experience at (Nottingham) Forest and is a left-footer as well. Gary gives us something different. I think it was time for people who know their way around a football pitch."

Wilder acknowledged Madine, aged 28, is likely to be polarising figure on the terraces at Bramall Lane. Having spent four years at Sheffield Wednesday, he was jailed for ABH and GBH in 2013 while footage of him insulting Sharp, before Wanderers faced United four years later, has appeared on social media.

The two, Wilder confirmed, have since settled their differences with Madine revealing "Billy put in a good word to the gaffer" before his loan move from Cardiff City: "He said I'd be a good bit of recruitment. So I'm grateful for that."

Neil Warnock, Wilder's predecessor at United and now manager of City, explained how Madine had helped the Welsh club reach the Premier League before sanctioning his departure on Monday. Despite only playing a bit-part role in the top-flight this term, Warnock paid tribute to Madine's contribution on and off the pitch in the Welsh capital.

Expanding upon Warnock's comments, Wilder said: "Neil has had some good centre-forwards. I should imagine he'd have loved him to go straight in. 

"But has he (Madine) upped (Kenneth) Zohore? Has he upped the other lads? The £6m they paid to get him from Bolton, to get a team up, now looks pretty modest even though it was a big number at the time."