It’s a rare sight for Sheffield Wednesday supporters to see one of their own at the head of the league’s scoring charts but young Gary Madine sits proudly atop in League One at present.
The 21-year-old made the decision to leave Carlisle United in January, doing so with a heavy heart after coming through the ranks at Brunton Park, but after some hardships in his early Owls career his persistence is now paying dividends.
Moving to Hillsborough as former boss Alan Irvine exercised the almost alien luxury of a Wednesday manager spending money in the transfer market, Madine scored five times in 22 games in a difficult first few months at the club. Results were on a downward spiral when he came in and confidence through the team was evaporating game by game, but despite the problems the “unthinkable” of relegation to League Two was averted – with Madine more than playing his part.
In the summer, fans’ discussion of transfer targets was all the more imaginative than in previous close seasons, the striking options taking a fair proportion of this speculation. Paul Heffernan left, Neil Mellor returned to Preston after his loan ended, leaving Madine and Clinton Morrison (who has joined MK Dons on loan this weekend).
After the season had begun, Rochdale’s Chris O’Grady was signed and Bury’s free-scoring Ryan Lowe soon followed. It should also be noted that Nigerian forward Danny Uchechi came in on loan until January from FC Dender of his homeland, although this signing looks more bizarre by the day as the 21-year-old has seemingly disappeared from the minds of all and sundry.
With O’Grady and Lowe, neither previous treatment room regulars, picking up injuries on their debuts (in separate games), the mantle has fallen all the more on Madine, and my word has he started to deliver.
It should also be said that the hard work and endeavour of Clinton Morrison has been an important contributing factor to this, although the former Ireland international has (as previously mentioned) now left for Karl Robinson’s side for a month. Nottingham Forest’s David McGoldrick has also come in on a temporary basis and got off to an ideal start with a goal in the 3-2 away success against Yeovil last Saturday.
Madine had been the target for criticism by a minority in pre-season and also after failing to score in the season’s opening four games.
The Gateshead-born frontman has however emphatically slammed the doubters’ words back in their faces, bagging nine times in a goal-laden spell which started against Notts County on August 20th.
In that time there was the horrendous 5-1 defeat at Stevenage (the consolation coming from guess who?) which had many up in arms about the admittedly worrying away form, but some personal attacks on Megson were beyond what could be considered acceptable.
The result was terrible however and the staff and the players needed to look at their part in this, share the blame and take responsibility in moving forward. Words can only re-assure the fans so much and the only way to back it up is with results on the pitch.
Wednesday have recovered in the best possible way in the two games since the Lamex Stadium debacle. Overcoming terrible sportsmanship from Yeovil in their first goal last weekend (Kieran Agard chasing down to score as the ball was returned to Wednesday after a Glovers player’s injury), The Owls came away with a hugely satisfying away win.
Yesterday saw a 3-0 win over Exeter at home, a fifth from five in the league at Hillsborough in 2011/12, going some way to banishing the memories of The Grecians’ double over the team last season (with an aggregate score of 7-2). The goal machine was at it again with a header and a penalty after James O’Connor’s opener and the striker is now three goals clear of his nearest League One challengers, as an aura builds around him with every game.
In the table, Wednesday are now on 19 points from ten games, in 7th (mainly due to the scale of the Stevenage defeat) but joint-3rd, a point behind city rivals United in 2nd and four points back from leaders Charlton.
The outlook is a whole lot brighter for the club after these two results, buoyed further with the return from injury of hitmen Lowe and O’Grady which should give opposition defences something to think about.
Wednesday never seem to quite get the focus they deserve from certain media sections – let’s see how long they can ignore a player waging a one-man war with the scoring charts.