Striking rivals

Gary Madine
Gary Madine
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SO WHO is the real goal machine? Is it the young pretender Gary Madine or the old stager James Beattie?

One thing which immediately springs to mind when comparing the talismanic strike duo is they are both hero worshipped by the fans. Some of the most popular chants on the terraces inevitably revolve around Madine and Beattie. They are the darlings of the Sheffield public.

James Beattie

James Beattie

A few eyebrows were raised in January when Alan Irvine splashed out £400,000 on Madine. Initially, it proved a big step up for the Gateshead-born player as he scored just fives times in 22 appearances for the Owls last term. There were some questioning whether he had the ability to make the grade at Hillsborough.

But now settled in South Yorkshire, Madine has answered his critics in emphatic fashion by establishing himself as an indispensable member of Wednesday’s promotion charge. In 19 starts, the 21-year-old has notched 11 goals this year. Strong in the air and deceptively quick for his size, it is no surprise Madine has turned out to be a handful at this level.

There are areas of Madine’s all round performance he can improve, not least his temperament, having picked up an avoidable yellow card at Hartlepool for dissent while he was also controversially given his marching orders at Carlisle.

As long as keeps out of trouble and gets himself fully fit, Madine possesses all the attributes to play a major role in the second half of the season.

On the other side of the city, Beattie has certainly brought the feelgood factor back to Sheffield United. Beattie hit 34 goals in 65 games during his previous spell at Bramall Lane between 2007 and 2009.

Boss Danny Wilson concedes the ex-England international, who has agreed a short-term deal until mid-January, has lifted the mood in the dressing room.

“When the opportunity arises to bring in someone of James’ calibre then it’s not something that you ignore,” said Wilson. “The absolute bonus, as far as we are concerned at least, is the fact that he’s so well-respected within the group of players that we’ve already got here and he’s a cult hero with the fans. The deal, from our perspective, was one that we just could not turn down.”

Formerly of Blackburn, Southampton, Everton, Stoke and Blackpool, Beattie has not played since May. There is no denying his goal-scoring prowess in the final third but his general match sharpness remain a concern. The 33-year-old, who has not scored in more than two years, could be named on the substitutes bench this weekend.

It is quite possible Madine and Beattie will both make telling contributions in the League One promotion race but if put on the spot and asked who I believe will make the greater impact, I would narrowly go for Madine.