It’s been around three months now since Mark Duffy took the decision to move away from Sheffield United.
Duffy was key player as the Blades rose up from League One and then the Championship. He had embedded himself in fan folklore with his famous ‘bounce killer’ goal at Hillsborough and seemed set to finally get his Premier League chance.
However, Duffy – or his agent – made the mistake of trying to get a new contract out of Chris Wilder. The United manager, never one to mince his words, abruptly told Duffy and his agent where to go.
A move to Stoke City followed for the former Burton and Birmingham man. The chance to join Nathan Jones’ revolution, a revolution that on paper looked similar to the job Wilder himself had taken on at Bramall Lane.
So, has it panned out for Duffy as he might have expected? Or is he thinking at the back of his mind just what has he done. Based on the season so far, we get the feeling it might be the latter.
Out of favour
Mark Duffy started 32 games for Sheffield United in their promotion winning campaign last year. A key element in the attacking 3-5-2 system employed by the Blades.
With Stoke struggling last season but picking up towards the back end of the year, Duffy could have been seen as a missing link for Nathan Jones.
He has all the attributes. Experience, touch, and a knack of opening up tight defences. However, Jones has opted against playing Duffy throughout the season, starting him only once and bringing him on just four times thus far.
It’s looking like a case of what might have been for Duffy. Wilder spoke excitedly last year about the attacking midfielder working his way up from Prescott Cables. Those days seem a distant and bitter memory now.
At his best
The key for Duffy at Sheffield United was that he found his place in a system tailor made to get the best from him.
In League One he had Paul Coutts and John Fleck sat behind him. The three seemingly in sync 100% of the time with each other’s movements. Not much changed when United brought in Oli Norwood to replace Coutts either.
A player who contributed 16 assists in the last two seasons should be getting in a struggling Stoke side. Crucial goals against the likes of Rotherham and Nottingham Forest, further cemented his importance to the cause.
Only, he’s not getting in that Stoke team. A Stoke team woefully out of form at that.
At 34, you can’t help but think Duffy has blown his chance at playing top flight football. What should have been a sensational and fairy-tale story for Duffy, has instead – potentially at least – become the stuff of nightmares.