opeless is not a word heard often at Sheffield United. The Blades are the only club in England’s top four divisions without a league win this season but no one at Bramall Lane believes relegation is inevitable.
When they host Leicester on Sunday, they will attack with the conviction that the goals will soon start to flow for them, even though they have netted four in 10 Premier League matches.
David McGoldrick believes that more than anyone and has been using the lessons of his own career to try to inspire the other strikers at the club. McGoldrick is their only player to have scored a league goal from open play this season, but it was a very different story last season, when he did not get off the mark until United’s 35th league match. He reminded his fellow forwards of that after last week’s defeat at West Brom, particularly Oli McBurnie, who has become a target of criticism after a series of missed chances.
“I spoke to him straight after the game in the dressing room,” says the 33-year-old. “I don’t really follow social media, but a few boys said there were calls for him to be dropped. But if you take the aspects of his game, what he brings to our club and team, the physical side and so on, he did well. If he had put a few of those chances away it would have been a real good performance.
It’s not about missing chances, it’s when you’re not getting chances that you need to start worrying
“As an older figure I tell them [younger strikers]: ‘Remember me when I was talking about my goal drought last year.’ It’s not about missing chances, it’s when you’re not getting chances that you need to start worrying. All the strikers have had chances and some of them are going to drop in soon, and then hopefully we’ll go on a run.”
McGoldrick was given similar advice when he was starting out as a teenager at Southampton. “I missed a few chances in a reserve game and Harry Redknapp [the manager] talked to me, and so did Kevin Phillips, who was the main striker at Southampton at the time and is the best finisher I’ve played with.
“He said when you’re not getting chances you know you’re doing something wrong and you shouldn’t be at this level, but when you are getting chances, getting into positions and getting on the end of things but it’s just not coming off, then you still belong at this level. Oli belongs at this level and he’s going to start scoring again, no doubt about it.”
McGoldrick knows the value of going public with that endorsement. He benefited from similar support last season, when his all-round play ensured he retained affection despite errant finishing. “I was getting no real negativity when I was on the pitch and missing chances,” he says.
“A couple of games spring to mind: at Brighton I went around the keeper and put it wide and the fans started singing my name. What fans do that?
“At Aston Villa I missed quite a few chances and the fans were singing my name as I was brought off. I saw some of the press conference, what the manager and the boys were saying about me, and as long as I had that backing, that got me through it.”
McGoldrick also takes heart from Sheffield United’s record of defying the odds under Chris Wilder, rising from League One to finishing ninth in the top flight. “We’ve had so much success over the past three years,” he says.
“This is the first real down part of our journey since I’ve been here so I don’t think we need to start taking a wrecking ball to things. You can see the system works, we’re creating chances. It’s just the final thing and that comes down to a bit of confidence and bit of luck.”
He is convinced there is no question of any of his teammates giving in to despair. “That’s one thing about this club, you wouldn’t be playing for a Chris Wilder team if you’re attitude wasn’t spot-on.
“It was not until I was 31 that I started playing in the Premier League even though I got signed by a Premier League club when I was 16,” he says. “It took all these years to get here and I want to stay as long as we can. We will fight tooth and nail to make that happen.”