It could be argued that Marc McNulty, not Colchester, Bristol City or Notts County, has paid the heaviest price for Matt Done’s spectacular start to life at Bramall Lane, writes James Shield.
After all, the former Livingston centre-forward was regarded as the deadliest finisher in Sheffield United’s first team squad until his team mate, signed from Rochdale earlier this month, burst onto the scene.
But Nigel Clough’s decision to ensure that McNulty, not Done or fellow goalscorer Jamie Murphy, was the main subject of conversation following Tuesday’s victory over Shaun Derry’s side confirmed the 22-year-old is still an integral part of the United manager’s plans.
“I thought Marc was exceptional when he came on as a substitute,” Clough told The Star. “And that goes to show that, when he’s been on the bench, he’s been doing what a professional footballer should do which is watching and learning. Taking everything on board.
“Matt, as everyone knows, has kicked-on really well. But Marc has clearly taken on board what we want from our players because, when he got out there, he showed exactly that.
“He did his own work well but also held the ball-up, brought others into the game and basically just harassed their defenders.
“And full credit to Marc for doing that. It certainly didn’t go unnoticed by us.”
McNulty, who remains United’s leading goalscorer this season despite seeing Done claim four in only three games, could again be named on the bench when Clough’s fifth-placed side host relegation threatened Coventry City today.
But the former England international added: “We’ve been critical of Marc at times, yes. But it’s not because we are being harsh or tough on him.
“Quite the opposite in fact. If we didn’t rate him then we wouldn’t have brought him here would we?
“We want the best for him because he’s a good player who can get even better.
“We know what Marc can do and we know what he could become in the future. What’s he’s capable of now and going forward.
“If we don’t point out areas where people can improve - and no one should every stop trying to do that - then they’ll never get any better. It’s no use if all you hear is what you want to hear.”
United will record a fourth straight win if they beat City and Clough said: “If people are involved, but on the bench, then they can still learn by watching and, just as importantly, listening too.
“Listening can be really beneficial as well.”