Blackpool fans, it seems, like a pantomime villain in our squad. The boo boys circled around big money signing Joe Nuttall for the majority of last season, and following his loan move to Northampton, attention from some quarters has now shifted to Gary Madine. So what is it about Madine that’s meant he hasn’t yet hit the ground running in tangerine, and how do we get the best out of him to silence the critics?
Record in tangerine
The 30-year-old came in as Simon Grayson’s big January transfer signing – his final throw of the dice on borrowed time. Madine agreed to mutually terminate his Cardiff City contract to make the move, opting for Blackpool amid interest from Sunderland and the Championship.
But he never really hit the ground running last season, scoring just twice and missing a couple of big chances in his 9 appearances, before the season was curtailed prematurely.
Armand Gnanduillet’s form last year surprised everyone, maybe even including himself, and that form came at a cost as we discovered one way of playing which worked – Feeney’s crosses into Gnands – and strikers Madine, Ryan Hardie and Joe Nuttall clearly weren’t as effective as the big man when playing this way. Two of those have since gone out on loan to clubs at our level, indicating they’re capable despite not doing it for us, and you’d expect that Madine is the better of the three, if he can get regular games.
Madine was also playing in a side which lacked confidence, full of new faces who hadn’t played together before, after 12 signings and 12 departures in the January transfer window, which meant the end for Simon Grayson. New man Critchley only got two games before Covid-19 ended our season, so we never got chance to see him make a further impact.
In pre-season, Critchley has favoured new signing Jerry Yates in the forward position, selecting Oliver Sarkic in the Blackburn Rovers game when Madine was injured. Madine has been largely ineffective throughout the warmup games, prompting rumours to circle that the Geordie could be on his way out.
Of course, this wasn’t his first time wearing tangerine – he had a brief loan spell in our horrendous 2014-15 Championship relegation season, scoring 3 in 14. He split opinion during that spell too – many fans thought he was impressive in a very poor Pool side that year, whereas others were glad to see the back of every player, as well as Bloomfield Road itself, as the #NAPM era started in a toxic era for the club.
Born in Tyne and Wear, Madine started his career with Carlisle United in 2008. Scoring four times in his first 42 appearances for the then-League One side, he was then loaned to Coventry City in the Championship, making 9 sub appearances and failing to score a goal.
Upon his return to Carlisle, he fired 5 goals in 9 games to help them to safety. He then struck 13 times in 28 games in the first half of the 2010-11 season which led to a £1m move to Sheffield Wednesday, then also in League One. He continued his good form, with three goals in his first five games for the Owls, notching five times in total that season for them to end his tally with 18 in 50 games.
He then hit a further 18 in 41 for Wednesday the following season as they were promoted to the Championship, but found the step up to the Championship a tough one and was only able to bag four goals in 35 appearances the following year.
He returned to Carlisle the year after, scoring twice in seven appearances back at League One level, then bagged 3 in 11 for Coventry at the same level, before his first stint at Bloomfield Road in the Championship with 3 in 14.
Then came his move to Bolton – he again failed to hit the ground running in the Championship, with 6 goals in 36 games in all competitions in his first season as they were relegated to League One. He scored 10 in 42 for Wanderers as they were promoted back to the second tier at the first time of asking, captained by Jay Spearing. This time, he did step up in the Championship, bagging 10 in 29 games, prompting Cardiff City to pay £6m for the striker in January 2018 on their way up to the Premier League.
It was to be a hellish two years in Wales for Madine who failed to score for them in his 28 appearances, five of which came in the Premier League. He did impress at Sheffield United, scoring three important goals in six starts, helping them to promotion to the Premier League ahead of Leeds.
After nine further goalless appearances for the Blue Birds in the first half of last season, his contract was mutually terminated and he came to Bloomfield Road in a bid to fire us to promotion last season. Of course, that wasn’t to be – both for Madine and for us as a club.
Safe to say then, that Madine has never really been a prolific striker. His main traits are his influence, presence and strength, as well as his ability to seemingly score important goals, which he has done at League One level and, more recently, in the Championship. He’s certainly had bad spells at other clubs where it’s simply never worked, whereas when he’s had a run in a side, he’s generally become a fan favourite and been a real handful for defenders, when teams are set up to utilise his strengths.
Style of play
By looking at some of Gary’s goals over his career, he’s capable of holding the ball up and good in the air, but also powerful and has good technique when high on confidence. It’s largely to do with getting the right supply chain for him – he’s not one who’s going to run around and pressurise defenders for 90 minutes like we may expect from Jerry Yates, and is more likely to make something happen in the penalty area when getting the ball into feet or on the turn.
Therein lies the potential problem – is Neil Critchley looking for someone to lead the line who is going to press the opposition’s back line and be quick on the counter? In CJ Hamilton, Keshi Anderson, Sullay Kaikai and new recruit Bez Lubala, Pool have plenty of pace in attack and will surely scare teams to death on the counter attack this season.
So will Madine get the chance he needs – a regular run in the side – to show what he can do? He’s a different option and will surely get his opportunity from the bench initially. It will then come down to whether he takes his chances. He’s been promoted from this league twice before automatically, and a side looking to finish in the automatic places certainly need more than one option in each forward position. While we may not expect him to score every week, Jerry is more unproven at this level and will go through periods of up and down form, which is when we will rely on Madine to come in and make a difference.
While referring to the forward as a ‘Plan B’, people can lazily assume that he’s a big lump up front who will hold it up and win challenges in the air, but there’s a lot more to Madine’s game than that. Not only is he a handful for opposition’s back line, but he has athletic technique to strike on the turn and when surrounded by multiple defenders.
In our analysis of Bez Lubala, we looked at how the winger often likes to cut the ball back after getting to the byline – those are the kind of chances Madine thrives from. He’s also strong when receiving the ball with his back to goal, able to create havoc for defenders and open up space for others to exploit.
Blackpool fans have understandably become used to players coming and going en masse over the last few years and are coming to expect the likes of Feeney and Madine – who have gone from regular starters to likely bench warmers this year – to depart as they aren’t first choice. It would be wise to keep a level of continuity where possible and while Madine only came in during the winter transfer window, his knowledge and experience – both at this club and at this level – will be important as we look to shape the squad.
One thing’s for sure – there aren’t many sides in the division with someone of the same quality and experience on the bench. If he takes his chance when it comes along, earning himself a run in the side, then who knows how many goals he could score?
We have signed a number of younger, trendier players from League Two this summer who we see as the future of the club, but we also need the right balance of experience and know-how to mount a promotion push. Along with Feeney, Madine gives us that much needed balance in the squad for players to look up to, learn from and follow. Their quality will be of paramount importance to us as we go through the season with two games a week and look for different options when breaking teams down.
If we are to have a successful season – and I’m talking about top six as a minimum, we will need players who have been there and done it before to show us the way and maintain that level of consistency required.
Perhaps it may help if we show our support to the players in and around the squad, giving them the confidence to go straight in and deliver when they get the chance.
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