Of everything that Gary Madine has done all season, his team talk for the players, staff and fans of Sheffield United in time for Wanderers' trip to Bramhall Lane is up there as the best thing he's done all season - in true Madine nature, it didn't benefit Wanderers. When his career as a mediocre target man that can't hold the ball up ends, he could well find employment in motivational speaking.
Madine decided to celebrate scoring one of three clear headers in the 2-2 draw last weekend at Valley Parade in the only way he knows how: by getting absolutely bladdered in Sheffield. A Sheffield Wednesday fan, thrusting a camera phone in his face, asked him about his thoughts on United's 21 goal striker Billy Sharp. Madine, who has showcased a third of Sharp's firepower in League One this season, did his best to look into the camera, his eyelids no longer under his own control, and called Sharp a "fat, little pig". League One's top scorer. The captain of the side top of the league by 7 points. One week before we visit their ground. Tit.
Wednesday fans laughed. United fans were incensed. Wanderers fans rolled their eyes. We've seen it all before.
When news broke at 2pm on match day of Madine's omission from the squad, there was an outpouring of resignation from Wanderers fans in the Wetherspoon pub in the city centre. Sure, he's naff. But he's so central to the way Parky plays, and the pantomime villain role will have suited him down to the ground. It might have even focussed the energies of the Sheffield United fans and centre halves, who'd have wanted to knock seven shades out of him in equal measure.
Whether it be due to illness or club discipline, Madine didn't play. He was replaced by the abomination that is Conor Wilkinson. However, Wilkinson is only a minor factor in our defeat. We were awful all across the pitch. What didn't help is that The Blades were very, very good.
Billy Sharp was fantastic. He knew exactly how to play against the back three, playing within the gap between Wheater and Beevers. His celebration to the Wanderers fans when he put United 1-0 was great; note to Wanderers fans at this point - do not call the league's top scorer a fat bastard. He'll score.
Hanson dominated Derik in the air. Sharp's runs in behind the wing backs, largely Dean Moxey, were simple but consistently effective. Mark Duffy was everywhere in midfield, and a mixture of Paul Coutts and John Fleck kept James Henry and Josh Vela pinned in their own half. It wasn't mind blowing football, but it was energetic, threatening and good to watch.
The atmosphere from the home fans was impressive, too. A club that can attract 27,000 fans to their ground on a miserable February afternoon doesn't deserve to be in League One. Especially a fan base that has suffered three seasons of promotion disappointment in as many years. Any club that can belt out John Denver intermittently has got my approval.
The visit to Bramhall Lane was the first time this season that Wanderers have been outclassed. Sure, we've got injuries mounting up, and missing a striker that falls "ill" just before 2pm on a match day. However you've got to hold your hands up and accept when you've been soundly beaten. Chris Wilder's team have one hand on the trophy already, and I don't see another team coming anywhere close to challenging them come May. It certainly won't be us.
We need to accept that the best team comfortably won, and move on. There's a huge game coming up against Fleetwood (a sentence I never thought I'd say) that could put us right back on track for the second automatic promotion spot. I hope to the footballing gods that we don't put another shocking performance like that in at Highbury.
Come on you Whites.