Friday, 25 July 2014

The New Arrivals - Marc McNulty

This week on A United View we will be hearing about each of United's new arrivals from the fans who watched them last season. Each day we will be hearing the reaction to losing a player and getting an idea of what we can expect in the coming months.

Next is John Maxwell, one of the duo behind TELL HIM HE'S PELÉ a site focused on showcasing the very best writers and commentators to promote an outstanding level of insight and analysis to the Scottish lower leagues. For many Blades this was a go to site when we signed Stefan Scougall, providing insight from the 5 Things We've Learned from match reports and of course his place at the top of the list of the Tell Him He's Pele 25 Superstars of the Lower Leagues.  You can follow them on twitter @telhimhespele

With McNulty yet to pull on the red and white stripes in pre-season, this preview will be a useful guide for Blades fans so we know what to expect when he's fully fit.

Marc McNulty

It was always certain that Marc McNulty would leave Livingston in Scotland's second tier, but the question remained as to  how much would he prosper in a more demanding league and without the service of playmaker Stefan Scougall.  The second part of the question is now redundant with McNulty joining Scougall at Bramall Lane, but the first is as relevant as ever.

Who Sheffield United have signed is a natural predator who plays to the strengths of his game.  McNulty's finishing is as accomplished as any to have graduated from the Scottish lower leagues in recent times, with a knack of leaving a goalkeeper stranded as he finds the corner of the goal with an uncanny regularity.

McNulty's play is all about efficiency.  There is no obvious flair to his game, even if he has the technique for it.  From coming short to pick up the ball from midfield, to spreading the ball wide into the path of an onrushing midfielder, everything is calculated in order for him to time his run into a goalscoring position.  Like Scougall, McNulty carries the ball with his head up and suits a side who will pass short and cut back to the forwards.

That position can be from anywhere within 20 yards to goal.  It doesn't matter the angle or the spin on the ball.  If McNulty cannot strike the football on the bounce for a first-time half-volley into the top corner from the edge of the box , then a simple trap sets him up exquisitely.  The majority of his goals were outrageously accomplished finishes that would leave the goalkeeper stranded, such as the banana shot from inside the box against Queen of the South.

Of the 24 league goals scored by Marc McNulty in his last two seasons at Livingston, nearly two thirds of them were executed with just one touch; the rest of his goals needed no more than two to score.  Only three of those goals were penalties, with McNulty assuming responsibility for taking them toward the end of last season.  On each occasion he shot to the goalkeeper's left and above the goalkeeper's stretching arms.

McNulty's biggest weakness is a lack of aerial prowess and stature to play with his back to goal.  He doesn't have the physique to compete with six foot-plus centre-backs, nor the searing pace to race beyond a full-back, but he makes up for that with wonderful technique and a cunning to be in the right place at the correct moment.

In a team with reliable service from a variety of angles he will thrive.  In that sense, he is the perfect accompaniment to Stefan Scougall.  

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The New Arrivals - James Wallace

This week on A United View we will be hearing about each of United's new arrivals from the fans who watched them last season. Each day we will be hearing the reaction to losing a player and getting an idea of what we can expect in the coming months.

Next up is esteemed Tranmere blogger and podcaster Paul Harper (@PaulHarper82 on twitter) who is editor and presenter of Total Tranmere . I was delighted to guest on the podcast ahead of a Blades v Rovers match; a game sadly not to be repeated this season.

Paul took a quick break from his comprehensive coverage of Rovers' pre-season to offer up his opinion on James Wallace.

James Wallace

There is no doubt that James Wallace has got the potential to become a very good midfield player. Unfortunately, injury halted his progress in developing that potential during his two year spell at Prenton Park.

He first arrived at the club for a loan spell for a couple of months at the end of the 2011/12 season and helped keep the team in League One at the end of a difficult campaign for Rovers.

During that temporary spell, he looked a very promising player. A dynamic, energetic midfield player who enjoyed getting forward but could also do the defensive side of the game too and that led to then-manager Ronnie Moore signing him up permanently for the following season and making him club captain.

In the first three months of that first full season, he was excellent. He led by example with his all-action performances, giving 100% commitment and that desire to win every ball probably led to his long-term injury lay-off.

In an FA Cup game against Chesterfield, he took a heavy touch and dived into a tackle and came out worse and had to endure over 11 months on the sidelines.

And to be honest, since his return, which was actually a goalscoring return away at Coventry, we didn't see a great deal of him due to further injury issues and a suspension after a red card on New Year's Day at Wolves.

We could have done with him on the pitch at the end of last season, but unfortunately another injury lay-off meant that was not possible. His presence on the pitch, I'm sure, would have kept Tranmere in League One.

He was offered a new deal with the club, and had he signed then I would have been happy. When fit, he is an excellent player. But can you keep him fit for long enough for him to have enough of an impact? There are huge doubts about that.

Because of that reason, a lot of Tranmere supporters weren't overly disappointed when he left the club to join Sheffield United.

He is certainly a good player, but at Tranmere, with a small squad, we can't afford to have a player who might not be available for large parts of the season. And with him never having played a full season, it is still a massive unknown as to whether he can do that.

I wish him well and hope that he can remain injury-free and enjoy success in his career because there is no doubting his ability.