Gary Madine admits he has “made a career of proving people wrong” and is determined to do it again and help Sheffield United gain promotion to the Premier League.
The 28-year-old – whose 18 goals helped Sheffield Wednesday pip the Blades to promotion from League One back in 2012 –was one of the surprise deals in the January transfer window when he opted to leave Premier League Cardiff City and return to Sheffield.
If his time playing for United’s city rivals was not bad enough, Madine was also jailed over two assaults during nights out in Sheffield city centre.
But having got his career back on track at Bolton Wanderers, and earning a big-money move to Cardiff, Madine jumped at the chance to return to the Steel City last month.
His two-goal display, and all-round performance, in United’s romp over Reading – plus a standing ovation from the Blades supporters who once tagged him ‘washing machine, not goal machine’ in his time at Hillsborough – proved Madine means business.
“The reception was brilliant (coming off),” said Madine. “I have sort of made a career of proving people wrong. I have had a few people saying I would rock the dressing room (at United). I know I am not that type of person.
“I have had my troubles away from football, but as far as Monday to Saturday goes, in work I work as hard as anyone, am as pleasant as anyone, and get on with everyone.
“I think that’s why the gaffer brought me in. He has done his research, found out what I am like around the club, and it was all positive. That’s good for me and I am glad the fans appreciated the hard work.
“It’s been a good day. I knew I could turn them (United fans) round with the way I play. I give 100 per cent. I am not someone who is going to get someone out of their seat, take three or four people on. I just give 100 per cent every week. I was a fan myself and you appreciate that.
“People appreciate hard work. If you try your socks off for the paying customer then they appreciate it. If you can top it off with a couple of goals then everyone is happy.”
I have been promoted three times now and hopefully No 4 is on its way. I don’t see any reason why not.Gary Madine
The Blades supporters were certainly happy having seen their side go 2-0 up after just 16 minutes. It calmed any nerves after the teams were announced, manager Chris Wilder opting to rest his two top scorers – Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick – and start with Madine and Scott Hogan, who had yet to open their Blades goal accounts. United started the scoring after just 38 seconds, Mark Duffy’s effort bundled home by Freeman.
Enda Stevens almost added a second after a game of head tennis only to see his effort drift over the crossbar.
It was 2-0 on 16 minutes, Royals goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez punished for trying to play out from the back as John Fleck pounced. When the ball rolled into Madine’s path he smashed it home.
The game was effectively over by half-time. Marvin Johnson’s left-wing cross was not cleared and Madine showed predatory instincts to pounce and make it 3-0.
Madine said: “I said to Duffy at half-time, ‘I feel like I haven’t touched the ball, but I have scored two goals’.
“He said, ‘don’t worry about touching the ball, we will do that, you just stay in the box’. That’s music to my ears.”
Fleck’s deflected long-range strike made it 4-0 just after the interval and only the a fine display from Martinez – making up for his earlier error – kept United from scoring further.
Madine was causing Reading all kinds of problems, but Martinez thwarted Ollie Norwood and Johnson.
The former Arsenal goalkeeper – no stranger to South Yorkshire after loan spells with the Owls and Rotherham United – also produced a stunning late save to deny Hogan a deserved goal, flicking his looping effort over the crossbar.
When Reading finally mustered a serious effort on Dean Henderson’s goal, with the clock ticking down, Lewis Baker saw his long-range effort tipped away by the Blades goalkeeper.
Having three promotions on his CV – at Wednesday, Bolton and Cardiff – Madine believes the Blades can reach the Premier League this season.
Victory over Reading saw them leapfrog Leeds United, who were not in action over the weekend, into the Championship’s top two.
“I have been promoted three times now and hopefully No 4 is on its way,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why not.
“We have a great blend of players, a bit of flair, a bit of hard work, tough defenders and a great goalkeeper. Long may this run continue.”
Madine admitted he was relieved to open his Blades account on his sixth appearance in red and white after waiting over a year for a goal. He had last scored for Bolton on January 20, 2018.
“The longer it goes (without scoring) you start looking at it,” he said.
“I checked yesterday, and saw five appearances and no goals. I needed to get one soon and thankfully it came.”
Sheffield United: Henderson, Cranie, Egan, Stevens, Freeman (Stearman 77), Norwood (Coutts 72), Fleck, Johnson, Duffy, Madine (Dowell 84), Hogan. Unused substitutes: Lundstram, Sharp, McGoldrick, Moore.
Reading: Martinez. Yiadom, Moore, Miazga, Richards, Ejaria (Bodvarsson 45), Kelly (Swift 19), Meite, Baker, Barrow, Oliviera (McCleary 75). Unused substitutes: Gunter, O’Shea, Harriott, Walker.