Sheffield United finished 11th in the 2015/16 season and were some way off making a charge for the play-offs.
Despite the return of Billy Sharp, goals were an issue for Nigel Adkins’ side, and the forward area was one the club needed to address for the following season.
Adkins was replaced by Chris Wilder in the close-season ahead of the summer transfer dealings.
And on July 27, 2016, the club announced the arrival of Leon Clarke from bury on a three-year deal.
— Sheffield United (@SUFC_tweets) July 27, 2016
After a 17 goal season for Shakers in League Two, new boss Wilder snapped up the then 31-year-old in a move that bemused many supporters.
There was an initial frosty reaction to Wilder’s acquisition who was joining his 19th club in 13 years.
Not convinced -31 years old, 11 loans, fewer than 1 goal every 3 games. Does he fit the Wilder blueprint? Hope I'm proved wrong
— Nigel Allsop (@nigelallsop) July 27, 2016
— jack (@jackbowerr_) July 27, 2016
he's gonna be the first player to Join the 72 club. He's can't have many left
— Adam James (@Im_Adam_James) July 27, 2016
thought you were rich ☺
— Craig Moffatt (@liverpoolred70) July 27, 2016
During his first year at Bramall Lane, Clarke managed nine goals, the two-thirds of which coming in his final seven appearances for the Blades. The striker netted on his home debut in the 2-1 defeat against Crewe.
After that, however, every time he scored that season, Sheffield United won on every occasion.
That run would be apart of a title-winning season as Wilder guided his troops to the League One summit and promotion to the Championship.
The opinion was starting to change in a season that saw Sharp and Clarke hit it off up top to provide not only goals but clever positioning and a phenomenal understanding in the final third.
Last season, there was somewhat of a footballing renaissance for the veteran striker.
Back in the second tier, Sheffield United flirted with the top two for much of the season before coming close to a play-off finish before finishing the season in 10th place.
But one of the more impressive sub-plots of the Blades’ season was the evergreen form Clarke was showing.
Despite being 32-years-old playing in at second-tier level, the striker managed to become the club’s top goal scorer that year with 19 goals in all competitions.
A red card four games in meant the forward would miss three matches, but that time away sparked Clarke into form.
United only lost three times when the striker scored with two hat-tricks recorded that year.
Without question, his highlight was a four-goal haul in the 4-1 over Hull City last November.
Blades fans’ opinions on the forward could not have been different from the day he signed until today.
Despite not scoring this season, Clarke has become a fans’ favourite and an important player in Wilder’s side.
The feeling on the striker is polar opposites to how it was back in July 2016.