Sheffield United: The story behind Gary Madine’s move to Bramall Lane

Gary Madine has joined Sheffield United on a season long loan: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Gary Madine has joined Sheffield United on a season long loan: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

It was 13 months ago, after watching him help Bolton Wanderers record a shock win at Bramall Lane, when Chris Wilder first began wondering what Gary Madine, who would later join Cardiff City in a £6m deal, could bring to his team.

The Sheffield United manager might have been less than impressed with the visitors' tactics, dismissing them as route one, smash and grab and brutally unsophisticated. But he lavished praise on Madine's performance, describing the former Sheffield Wednesday centre-forward as "outstanding" and "the most influential performer" in the game.

So, encouraged by reports the 28-year-old had always fancied representing United since his time at Hillsborough, Wilder scribbled the striker's name down on a post-it note and resolved, should the opportunity ever arise, to test the waters.

That chance finally came towards the end of last week when sources told Wilder and his coaching staff that City might be prepared to do business. Monday's announcement, confirming Madine's arrival on loan, marked the end of United's year long fascination with the Gateshead-born marksman and, on the player's part, his long-term flirtation with them. 

A combination of factors, including City's bid for top-flight survival and Wilder's need for greater physicality, paved the way for Madine's return to South Yorkshire three seasons after leaving Wednesday, where he scored 26 goals in 67 league starts before moving to Greater Manchester.

Neil Warnock, Wilder's predecessor, has made no secret of his desire to bolster City's squad after leading them to promotion last term and, believing United's attacking philosophy will suit Madine, sanctioned the move to create room on his budget. Two hundred miles to the north, with his side's climb to third in the table meaning other leading Championship clubs are unwilling to lend him players, Wilder could not resist the temptation to act on the hunch that Madine, despite being a controversial figure in S2, would prove a valuable addition.

Gary Madine and Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Gary Madine and Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Although he is aware many United supporters are uncomfortable with Madine's presence - jailed for ABH and GBH in 2013, a video of him insulting captain Billy Sharp later appeared on social media - Wilder's players are known to have welcomed his decision to push through the switch.

Indeed, it evokes memories of United's decision to purchase James Hanson from Bradford City midway through their League One title winning campaign a year ago; a piece of business many still view as being the catalyst for the club's impressive results during the second half of the season. With Leon Clarke pushing himself through the pain barrier in recent weeks, signing Madine allows his new team mate the breathing space to recover properly and brings a more youthful edge to Wilder's attack.

Aware of his need to win over the doubters, Madine confirmed he had turned down rival approaches to accept United's offer after being officially unveiled.

"Some people have this perception I don't like Sheffield United but that's not true," he told their official website. "I've had over 20,000 supporters booing me when I've played here before, it's an intimidating place, and some players would crumble."

Cardiff City and former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

Cardiff City and former Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder

"But I've always thought I wouldn't mind being a part of that," Madine continued. "And it's certainly a club on the up, one who play some excellent football."

Madine's interest in United actually traces back to the 2011/12 season, when both they and Wednesday were trading blows towards the top of League One. Still plying his trade at Hillsborough, Madine became a regular visitor to United's stadium after becoming friends with then United defender Marc Warren and expressing his admiration for Ched Evans' skills in front of goal.

After making six appearances for City this term, five of those coming in the Premier League, Madine is expected to make his United debut against Queens Park Rangers this weekend, when Wilder's men know a win will see them climb above second-placed Norwich City who face West Bromwich Albion.

James Hanson became a crucial member of Sheffield United's League One title-winning squad

James Hanson became a crucial member of Sheffield United's League One title-winning squad