Gary Madine accepts he is now at a crossroads in his career if he is to become a Sheffield Wednesday legend like his boyhood hero Chris Waddle.
The 22-year-old has been tagged as having “potential” ever since he started banging in the goals with Carlisle United as a teenager.
That earned him an £800,000 move to Hillsborough and he finished top scorer last season as his 18 goals helped Wednesday gain promotion from League One.
But this season, Madine has been a peripheral figure on the pitch, while off it the Owls forward is due to face trial at Leeds Crown Court next April after two alleged city centre incidents.
So, after winning back a starting berth under Owls manager Dave Jones, Madine is determined to grasp his chance.
“I have heard the word potential over the last few years, how long does potential last before it’s wasted,” he said. “I need to progress as a player.
“I think I am my own biggest critic, there’s a lot of things I need to work on, things I can do better. Hopefully, the gaffer is going to work at that with me to get me there.
“Strength, I need to get stronger, faster. Maybe my attitude as well, sort my attitude out a little bit. I think I am getting there.”
Asked if that was both on and off the pitch, Madine replied: “No, I think off the pitch I am all right now, keep myself quiet. I am working hard, going to the gym more instead of just walking past it, things like that.
“I am disappointed with the season so far. I have not had as much playing time as I would have liked, not scored as many goals as I would have liked.
“But I am having a little run in the team now, a few games, and, hopefully, I am getting my sharpness back, banging in a couple of goals and going on a little run.
“The manager has just told me to keep plugging away. We have been on a bad run and that’s when you need everybody to stick together. I just had to work hard, keep my head down, and knew the chance would come.”
Madine – who was linked with a loan move to Swindon Town earlier this year – had been left sidelined after the loan signing of one-time England striker Jay Bothroyd, from QPR, in August.
Then, when Bothroyd was injured, Jones signed Mamady Sidibe on loan from Stoke, a striker who had not played for two years due to injuries.
It all added to Madine’s frustrations, his only goal having been the winner against Premier League side Fulham in the Capital One Cup before his recent return to first-team duties.
Now, after netting twice in six games, and being reunited with Chris O’Grady after their successful partnership last season, Madine is just eager to help fire Wednesday to Championship safety.
“It’s difficult to take,” said the Gateshead-born striker. “I think I would have scored goals if I had played, but he (Jones) has chosen to put other people ahead of me.
“He thinks I haven’t taken my chances when I have had them, and I agree with him. I haven’t been at my best, I know that.
“Jay Bothroyd hasn’t been playing as best as he can, but we all know when he turns it on he can be a great player. We have seen it in training every day.
“If the gaffer brings Mamady (Sidibe) in and thinks he’s going to score goals, then we all hope he does. He’s a great lad, works hard.
“I think the gaffer would say, when I have come on as sub I have not taken my chance then, which is what matters.
“We then played one up front which suits Chris O’Grady down to a tee as he is an absolute monster of a man, holding the ball up, then getting it outside.
“The shirt is mine to lose now. I thought I put myself about in the last couple of games and have been a little bit unlucky. Against Bristol City, I thought I could have had a brace. We should have had a draw.
“Hopefully, things will start going for us as we have been unlucky. After Barnsley, everyone’s buzzing, but the week before against Bristol City we were really unlucky and there are a lot of positives to take out of that game.
“We thought it was a case of ‘how many are we going to get?’, then because of our own silly mistakes we end up getting beat 3-2.”
Madine is settled in Sheffield, so much so that he claims he would be happy to play for Wednesday for the remainder of his career.
“I absolutely love the fans,” he said. “I hope I spend the rest of my life here, I really, really mean that. I would be absolutely delighted. The support is absolutely incredible. Last season, the way people were to me, I have never had things where I have come from, yet last year I would go places with my family and people were like ‘Gary, sit down, we will get you this, we will get you that...’
“The fans are so eager to do things for you and it really does make you feel special.
“Hopefully, I can get myself a few goals which will bring us some wins and get us out of the trouble we are in. As long as this club is safe at the end of the season, I will be more than happy.
“I have got another two-and-a-half years left on my contract, but if the club would like to give me more I would be happy to sign it.”
Madine believes the Owls have the potential to survive this season, starting today with the visit of Charlton Athletic to Hillsborough.
“Absolutely, not a problem. The ability of players that we have here, we spent a lot of money on Michail Antonio, and I think that man is absolutely frightening when he is on his day. He terrorises people. The end product he’s working on, he knows it’s not the finished article yet, but he can be.
“I want to play at a higher level, but I have not really done it at this level yet. I know I can do.”
Despite his limited number of starts this season, Madine is fully behind Jones as the man to lead Wednesday out of trouble.
He said: “Last season, he came in and just lifted the place. We went on a crazy run of not losing a game which got us promoted.
“Everyone loves him for that and I am sure he can do it again.
“You have to take the rough with the smooth, you can’t forget the run we went on when we were winning. When you are up there, you are really happy, so when you are down you need to remember the good things that we had and we will get back there.”