It’s been a season of improvement for Sheffield United striker, Oli McBurnie.
After signing in the summer for a club-record fee of around £20m, the big striker endured a stop-start first few months of his career at Bramall Lane.
A towering header at home to Leicester City showed his qualities in front of goal early on. However, he went a good while without a goal following that header. Indeed, it was another nine games before McBurnie hit the net again. This time, it was an equaliser against Manchester United.
During his time with the club, some Blades fans have questioned his ability and commitment. Of course, some off-field ‘issues’ haven’t helped his reputation with some supporters. But aside from those errors of judgement – shall we say – McBurnie has done little wrong on the field.
He’s played 90 minutes in the last four games now and only came off at home against West Ham for the final five minutes.
It is, therefore, impossible for those who doubted McBurnie to say anything other than he is really starting to fulfil his potential.
Aerial presence and a man for the big moments
Much has been made of McBurnie’s aerial qualities. Even though only one of his four goals has come from a header, the stats back up that the striker is indeed a massive handful up top for the Blades.
In fact, just this weekend was a fine representation of his qualities. McBurnie won 12 aerial battles against Bournemouth. That, according to Sheffield United’s official Twitter account, was the most on the pitch.
However, it would be easy to simply brand McBurnie as a ‘lump’ upfront. There’s so much more to his game. Since David McGoldrick has been injured, McBurnie has played the role of link man excellently. Dropping deep, he’s allowed the likes of John Fleck to get forward. He also seems to be the perfect foil for Billy Sharp, who himself has come back into a nice run of form.
In terms of big moments, too, McBurnie excels. His goal against Man United rescued a point. At Brighton, he had one chance and took it with aplomb. Then, against West Ham, McBurnie again seized his moment to seal three points.
Yes, United paid a big chunk of money for him. But Oli McBurnie is showing more than ever just how good he is.
If there is anyone inside Bramall Lane who is still questioning him, then, frankly, they’ve been watching a different game to what this writer has.