When you talk about a player dividing opinion among a fanbase, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who divides the masses like Sheffield United striker, Oli McBurnie.
The big number nine was a £20m signing from Swansea when United won promotion to the Premier League. He did well enough that first season, scoring six and being a pain in the backside for top-flight defences. But since then, we’ve seen nothing like what we all thought we would from McBurnie.
Writing last season off as ‘just one of them’ for the entire squad, most believed McBurnie would be the man to propel United to Championship glory. He had, after all, scored more than 20 goals the last time he was at this level with the Swans. But we’ve had just one goal all season from McBurnie, in the league cup. Coincidentally, it was a game where he also missed a penalty in the shootout.
One of the arguments against McBurnie and one that causes tension online among fans is the fact he is often lauded for some of the more simple elements of being a footballer. Praised for his hard-work, putting himself about, and doing the non-glamorous aspects, it’s something that grates on certain supporters. The argument, of course, is that the bare minimum should be those things.
Unfortunately for McBurnie, the lack of goals or assists when he does play means that more and more people are running out of patience and, for want of a better phrase, excuses, to back him up.
Sure enough, he’s been injured and poorly this season. We don’t know how that has affected him, of course. But what we can judge McBurnie on is what we see on the field. And at the moment, it’s just not enough.
Case and point goes to the fact McBurnie has started three of the last five. In those three starts, United have failed to score a goal. Worryingly, against both Millwall and Huddersfield, seldom did the team – let alone McBurnie – look like scoring.
Last Chance Saloon
To their credit, both Paul Heckingbottom and Stuart McCall have thrown their weight behind Oli Mac. And to add into the mix, on this website we have maintained a stance that, given time, McBurnie will deliver.
But the pressure is now on the striker himself to do so. We all know he puts the graft in. Likewise, we can all see he loves playing for the club. There is no doubting his commitment, or his will to do well.
The fact remains, though, that for £20m, we have seen just eight goals in 88 appearances. As pointed out this weekend by someone on social media, we are looking at Chris Porter levels of finishing here. Porter, despite being a cult-hero of sorts, was never the most prolific and was often ridiculed for it.
The time for McBurnie to deliver, then, is now. There is still a chunk of this season to go. He will get chances and minutes and he can contribute. But a failure to deliver could prove costly and come the summer, United might just consider looking to recoup some of that £20m outlay.