Kevin McDonald knows he will be the centre of attention tomorrow lunchtime.
The Wolves playmaker makes his first return to Bramall Lane since leaving last August in a bargain £250,000 deal. But, while he is sure to be noticed by Sheffield United fans, it’s the way he has been singled out by the opposition in recent times that will be of more concern to him and Wolves.
Such is the importance and threat of the 25-year-old League One Player of the Year nominee he has become a marked man. Everyone who has watched Wolves since the turn of the year will know McDonald is more often than not the starting point for their attacks.
And after Shrewsbury’s version of Jack Price, Ryan Woods, ‘did a job’ on Michael Jacobs last Saturday, it was the turn of Crawley’s Josh Simpson to put the shackles on McDonald on Tuesday night.
From McDonald’s point of view – and much like his smooth passing game – he takes it in his stride.
“I respect the way they want to stop me – it’s a compliment, and a bonus if I can find a way to combat it,” he said. “It makes you feel good but we have many more players who can win us games.
“If I was the opposition and looking to stop one man, I’d be looking to stop Bakary Sako, Michael Jacobs, James Henry or Nouha Dicko.
“If it was me they wanted to stop the other night, it reflected in the way they were set up and it worked, so fair play to Crawley. It’s part of football.”
McDonald believes teams’ planning to stop them is an occupational hazard with Wolves top of the league after a club-record nine straight wins.
“Teams have looked at us and have changed their line-ups and switched their tactics to try to stop us playing,” he said. “We couldn’t break Shrewsbury or Crawley down, as we have done other teams recently, but it’s something we’ve all got to get used to and sometimes we may have to change tactics as well to find a different way to win.
“It’s a mark of respect and we have to take it as a compliment, but we’ll continue to try to play in the right manner.”
Whatever happens tomorrow, McDonald maintains his move from Sheffield to Wolves was right for his career. So he has no regrets about missing out on a Wembley appearance after the Blades’ run to the FA Cup semi-finals.
“I’ve watched their Cup games on TV and they deserved to beat the Premier League teams – they haven’t looked out of place either,” he said.
“They’ve got a good team spirit and I wish them all the best in the semi-final – anything can happen.
“At first it was hard after moving but I’ve settled in at Wolves and I’m a Wolves player now.
“It was a tough first couple of months on and off the pitch but that’s always the case when you move. But I’ve got over that now and I’m enjoying my football.
“It’s been good from day one but it’s getting better and better every day now and if we can win promotion it will have been a good season.”
Nigel Clough’s Blades are on the crest of a wave after 11 games unbeaten, 10 straight wins and eight consecutive clean sheets. And it should be a carnival atmosphere with the club celebrating its 125th anniversary, hence the 1.25pm kick off.
So what is McDonald expecting tomorrow? “It will be a good game for the fans and I’m sure there will be a big crowd,” said the former Burnley midfielder.
“They have been on a superb run – as we have been – so everything is set up for it to be a great game.
“It will be the first time I’ve been back and whatever reception I get, I’ve got to put that to one side because I’m playing for Wolves now.
“They’re entitled to their opinion and it’s up to them what they want to say.
“But there will be no time for thinking about that tomorrow – I’ll have my match head on and be concentrating on the game.”
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