He is the most prolific English league striker of his generation. He is the comeback king. His name is Billy Sharp.
Scoring 227 league goals since the year 2000 is a pretty remarkable achievement – that is before any mitigating factors come into the equation.
Sharp’s story has been one hell of a rollercoaster with more than a fair share of adversities along the way.
None more so than the tragic loss of his son, Luey Jacob, back in October 2011.
He was just two days old when he tragically died of gastroschisis.
Many would have understandably taken the necessary time out to get their head straight – not Sharp.
Three days later and he was captaining his side at that time, Doncaster, in a Championship clash at home to Middlesbrough.
He opened the scoring with a 14th-minute wonder goal, which he celebrated by lifting up his strip to reveal a T-shirt bearing the slogan ‘That’s for you, son’.
Despite eventually falling to a 3-1 defeat, Sharp labelled the goal ‘the most important of his career’, as the striker gained huge plaudits and respect for his show of incredible strength.
Now 33, you’d be thinking Sharp – the modern day ‘fox in the box’ – would be showing signs of slowing up. Think again.
He has already scored an incredible 24 goals in 38 appearances for Chris Wilder’s promotion chasers this season – including a superb hat-trick at Aston Villa back in February.
Not bad for a ‘fat lad from Sheffield’ – the words etched across a shirt he unveiled during a game back in 2010.
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Sharp has regrets. Speaking after becoming the joint-highest scoring Englishman this century following a brace against Blackburn in December, he said: “If I could have played here all my career then I would have done.
“I’d have loved to have done that.
“I had to go away a couple of times to benefit myself but I feel as if I’ve come back at exactly the right time.
“I feel as fit and as strong as ever. I feel I can keep going for sometime yet.”
And who could argue with that?
TOP GOALSCORERS IN ENGLISH FOOTBALL THIS CENTURY
BILLY SHARP – 227
Rickie Lambert – 219
Wayne Rooney – 208
Jermain Defoe – 191
Frank Lampard – 158
Sergio Aguero – 157
Harry Kane – 126
It’s not just at Bramall Lane where Sharp has made his mark, though.
He made his first-team debut for the Blades during the 2004/05 season, but after struggling to make an impact was shipped out on loan to Rushden & Diamonds.
The potential was there for everyone to see even at that tender age.
Nine goals in 16 games prompted Scunthorpe United to sign the striker on a permanent basis in 2005.
Over the next two seasons Sharp quite literally had a field day.
He scored 23 times in his maiden campaign and followed that up with another 30 in the 2006/07 season helping guide the Iron to promotion to the Championship.
Come that summer the interest in Sharp was intensifying and deservedly so.
A number of clubs made bids for his services, but ultimately only one of those really floated his boat.
A return to the Steel City, it was to be. Sharp arrived back home with a £2million price tag slapped on his head and expectations galore.
However, it was not to be the dream return he would have envisaged.
He had to wait until March to score his first league goal against Coventry, finding the net just three more times that season.
Sharp went back to the drawing board and started the 2008/09 season in devastating fashion.
An opening day hat-trick against Queens Park Rangers looked like setting the tone for the rest of the campaign, following that up with a crucial equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Coventry a few weeks later.
But that was to be his last league goal of the season.
Come July and Sharp’s dream return had turned into a nightmare – finding himself on the transfer list following the Blades’ failure to secure promotion.
A season-long loan to Doncaster followed. Sharp was unusually handed the No 5 shirt for the new campaign – and that killer goal instinct was well and truly back.
Injury halted his progress towards the end of the 2009/10 season, but still Sharp notched 15 goals in 33 league games.
United rejected a £1m from Doncaster, before Sharp himself turned down a move to recently relegated Burnley – despite the offer in excess of £1m being accepted.
Doncaster finally struck gold though, agreeing a fee of around £1.15m to land Sharp on a three-year deal in July 2010.
The second chapter of Sharp’s Sheffield United career had closed.
Unsurprisingly, he was a big hit at Doncaster during his two years at the club – and was on the move again in January 2012, reuniting with his old Iron boss Nigel Adkins at St Mary’s, penning a three-and-a-half year deal in the process.
However, it proved to be a strange time for Sharp at Southampton – making just 17 appearances spanning a two-and-a-half year period.
While he found the net nine times during that time, he was shipped out on loan to Nottingham Forest, Reading and former side Doncaster during that time.
Leeds United was Sharp’s next port of call, albeit a brief one.
The front man will be the first person to tell you that his spell at Elland Road was not the finest time of his career, scoring just five times in 33 appearances.
But then it was time for him to return home – and as they say, the rest is history.
His first season back at Bramall Lane heralded 21 goals, with his 30-goal return the next season helping Wilder’s men return to the Championship.
He has continued his goalscoring heroics in the second tier, too.
After falling just short of making the play-offs last season, there is increasing confidence around the Steel City that this is the season they return to the big time.
And Sharp – voted in the EFL Team of the Year earlier last weekend – deserves that more than anyone.
He comes alive in front of the Bramall Lane faithful, who he deservedly holds legendary status with.
However, for the great goalscorer he is – Sharp has just two Premier League appearances to his name.
That could all change next season. A return to the promised land would be nothing more than that ‘fat lad from Sheffield’ deserves.