Sheffield United: Stopping former Blade and Sheffield Wednesday striker is at the heart of Blackpool plan

Sheffield United have been told why it is so important they nullify the threat posed by their former striker Gary Madine at Blackpool on Wednesday night.

Monday, 14th March 2022, 4:35 pm

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The 31-year-old, who moved to Bramall Lane on loan three seasons ago, scored his eighth goal of the season last weekend as Neil Critchley’s side defeated Swansea City.

Despite expressing his admiration for Critchley’s squad before travelling to Bloomfield Road - “They’ve got lots of good players and work hard as a team” - Heckingbottom expects Madine to be a focal point of the opposition’s gameplan.

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Blackpool will predominantly look to go forward and hit Madine,” the United manager said. “They’ll want to be on the front foot and take advantage of what he brings to the table, so that’s something we’re going to have to be very aware of.

“They cause a lot of problems and that is one of the big ways they’ve been causing problems too.”

Previously a pantomime villain at Bramall Lane thanks to his previous association with Sheffield Wednesday and some ill-judged comments about captain Billy Sharp, Madine transformed his reputation among United supporters when he helped deliver promotion from the Championship in 2019.

Gary Madine celebrates a goal for Sheffield United during his spell on loan at Bramall Lane: James Wilson/Sportimage

Although he returned to Cardiff City later that summer, Madine has since spoken in glowing terms about his time with United and remains in contact with several members of their squad.

Blackpool, who triumphed 1-0 when they travelled to South Yorkshire in October, enter their meeting with United on the back of three straight wins having beaten Reading and Stoke City before facing Swansea.

“Neil’s team, and this has impressed me, it’s evolved over the course of the season,” Heckingbottom noted. “They got off to a great start and were probably helped by the fact they’d just come up (from League One) which meant everything was fresh and new.

“But huge credit to them, they’ve developed as they’ve gone along and you can see why they’ve got the record they’ve got.”

Paul Heckingbottom is preparing his Sheffield United team to face Blackpool: Ashley Crowden / Sportimage

United remained in a play-off position despite losing 4-1 at Coventry City on Saturday afternoon. Blackpool are 12th and have lost only once at home this year.

“We can’t have a repeat of what happened (at Coventry),” Heckingbottom acknowledged. “We need that to be a bump in the road if you like.”

Gary Madine transformed his reputation at Sheffield United having previously represented Sheffield Wednesday: James Wilson/Sportimage