Released from prison Sheffield Wednesday’s former goal machine Gary Madine now faces an uncertain future. By Richard Brook.

Gary Madine, the “goal machine” of Sheffield Wednesday’s 2012 League One promotion, has been released from prison having served five months of an 18 month sentence for assaults on two men in separate incidents in Sheffield nightclubs. The striker’s future is a divisive issue amongst Wednesday’s fan base.

Reaction on the club’s official social media accounts and on unofficial fan sites broadly falls into three groups. A number of Owls fans feel that the actions, of which Madine was found guilty, are not befitting of the club and that he should not pull on the famous blue and white stripes again. Others feel that Madine’s on field performances, since Wednesday’s arrival in the second tier, are indicative that the player is not up to the rigours of Championship football.

The third section are supportive of Madine and, while acknowledging that getting into fights is not acceptable behaviour for a professional footballer or indeed any member of society, they wish to give him a chance to put such incidents in the past, and to prove his worth on the pitch. Although the Owls later announced that neither the club nor the player would make a statement at this time, a seemingly contrite, Madine had already taken to twitter earlier in the day to thank supporters:

“Thanks for all the nice messages. I’m sorry for letting so many people down. Can’t wait 2 get back training, feel stronger than ever!!”

Reading between the lines, it appears that Wednesday are closest aligned to the latter group of their supporters, on this matter. Surely if the club were to take a stand that this behaviour should lead to the striker being sacked, then the time to make that stand was at the time that it became apparent that there was no chance of Madine successfully appealing the verdict. Instead, head coach, Stuart Gray – appointed as the replacement for Dave Jones, who was sacked while Madine served his sentence – has visited the striker in Armley prison, in Leeds. Although Gray stated that he is “not going to jump to any conclusions” over Madine being back in the Wednesday squad with talks planned for the middle of next week reportedly involving, Wednesday chairman, Milan Mandaric and vice-chairman Paul Aldridge, as well as Madine and Gray.

Without seeking to make any excuses for violent assault – which very obviously not to be condoned, it seems to me that the sensible course of action is to afford Madine a last chance. Some Wednesday fans are quick to point out that Madine has been in trouble with the police before over an arson in Gateshead, of which the player was cleared of any involvement, and a previous incident for which Madine was sentenced to community service, for punching a customer in a pub, while Madine was a Carlisle United player. Without wishing to trivialise acts of physical violence, Madine was not the first and nor will he be the last young man to get into a fight in a drinking establishment. I have a degree of sympathy for the point that Madine has had chances before, and the line certainly must be drawn somewhere, but some people need a louder wakeup call than others. Hopefully five months in prison and nearly throwing his favourable lifestyle away will prove just the wakeup call that the striker needed.

It does not make good business sense for Wednesday to off-load the player. According to, local newspaper, The News & Star Gary Madine’s transfer to Sheffield Wednesday was worth around £800,000 to Carlisle – although a significant amount was tied up in appearance and performance add-ons. Madine still has a year remaining on his Owls contract and with proven form as a goal-scorer at League One level, he scored 18 goals in the Owls promotion campaign, and if Wednesday did decide to dispense with his services it is to be imagined that they would look to recoup as much of their initial outlay as possible.

Madine leaves court last October prior to sentencing.

The assertion that Madine has struggled to come to terms with Championship is unfounded. There is no evidence either way. Looking at the bare statistics suggests that Madine did flounder last season, on the face of it he played 35 matches and scored four goals – close to one goal in nine. Digging a little deeper reveals a truer picture. Madine came off the bench 20 times in those 35 appearances often with an hour or more played. Even including the fact that he started 14 league and cup games, and was only replaced five times, Madine’s average playing time was only around 40 minutes per match. Like many strikers, Madine is a confidence player and might have benefitted from an extended run of games – and then a fairer judgment could be applied to his ability to make the step up a division.

Given the stop start nature of his season Madine’s scoring record was actually far more impressive than it appears. The striker averaged a goal every 385 minutes. If you translate that into 90 minute matches that is a goal every 4.27 games. Allowing for the fact that Madine did not get many full games, or a consistent run of them, that is not a bad benchmark.

Not only is Madine’s Championship record better than it first appears it should be noted that a number of players that were out of favour and apparently written off by former boss Dave Jones, have appeared rejuvenated since Gray replaced him. Chris Maguire, bought and started once by Jones, has shone under Gray. Player of the Year in the Owls’ promotion season, Jose Semedo had again found top form as Wednesday’s midfield enforcer, prior to his injury, having been written off by Jones. Kieran Lee has moved in to midfield, having been used fairly occasionally to execute defensive duties on the right hand side under the previous regime, and looks a very accomplished all round player.

Who is to say that Gray cannot both see and unlock something in Madine, where Jones was unable to? Madine may not create many goals for himself, and may have appeared too easy to knock off the ball to play as a hold up man, for Jones, but he can finish. Wednesday certainly make plenty of chances under Gray.

If Madine is in the right frame of mind, inspired by his enforced break from football, and willing to work for the team and for himself, then his return could be like a new signing. He has everything to prove both on and off the field and it is up to him to do that. I have a sneaking suspicion that a character like Madine might just be at his best when he feels he has a point to prove.

For me Wednesday, and their supporters, should give Madine one more chance to make things right. It is not the right time in the season, in the player’s contract or in his development to let him go. Who would not want a revitalised goal machine in their ranks?

When Madine joined Wednesday from Carlisle United he said: “I’m going to work hard and intend to become a better player and a better person too.” I sincerely hope he gets one more chance, from the club and the fans, to achieve both these goals with the Owls and I sincerely hope he grasps it.