Billy Sharp: Inspirational Sheffield United skipper deserves a proper crack at the Premier League

10 Apr

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.

Billy Sharp has been the driving force behind Sheffield United’s Championship promotion bid

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’.

 

The club icon, pictured celebrating promotion to the third tier with supporters two years ago, has been in devastating form this season

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.

Sharp, 33, has found the net 24 times in just 38 appearances this season – including a hat-trick at Aston Villa

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.

Sharp in action during his second stint at Bramall Lane

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.

Sharp was a big hit at Doncaster during three separate spells

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.

The prolific striker made just 17 appearances for Southampton during a two-and-a-half year spell

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.

Championship team of the year: Alternative XI, according to statistics with Leeds United, Norwich City and Sheffield United all represented

27 Mar

The players named in the Championship team of the season were revealed by the EFL on Tuesday and some eyebrows were raised after some notable omissions.

The player of the year shortlist was also announced with Birmingham’s Che Adams, Sheffield United’s Billy Sharp and Norwich striker Teemu Pukki all up for the top award.

Norwich City forward Teemu Pukki

The official team of the year announced was as follows: Darren Randolph, Max Aarons, Reece James, Liam Cooper, Jamal Lewis, Kalvin Phillips, Oliver Norwood, Jarrod Bowen, Che Adams, Teemu Pukki and Billy Sharp.

Leeds United fans were dismayed that Pablo Hernandez was not named in that team despite scoring 10 goals and registering 11 assists.

Liam Cooper was one of three players to be in both teams of the year

But the EFL have been validated, which is bad news for Leeds fans, because he is also not in the Championship’s best XI, according to WhoScored’s ratings.

The WhoScored and the EFL teams of the season differ wildly and there are just three players who make it to both.

Just two Norwich City players make it into that team despite their club being top-of-the-table while Sheffield United have just one representative.

Two of the players who are nominated for the player of the year prize, Adams and Sharp, have not even made it in the team.

The WhoScored.com current team of the year

The team above is not final, unlike the EFL one, with players still able to force their way into the side with some good performances in the final eight games of the season.

WWE legend Mick Foley responds to Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp after ‘Mr Socko’ celebration

27 Jan

With the Royal Rumble taking place over the weekend, Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp celebrated with a timely nod to the WWE.

After equalising from the penalty spot in a 2-2 draw with Norwich on Saturday, the forward pulled out the sock puppet made famous by Mick Foley’s character Mankind.

WWE legend Mick Foley thanked Billy Sharp

Fans of the Attitude Era will remember the prop known as ‘Mr Socko’ being used as part of Foley’s finishing move the ‘Mandible Claw’ in which he would stuff his covered hand into his opponent’s mouth.

WWE Hall of Famer Foley was aware of the tribute and sent Sharp a message on social media thanking him.

Sharp responded to the former wrestler by hailing him as an inspiration, followed by a series of sock emojis.

The 32-year-old has enjoyed a prolific season in front of goal for the Blades, netting 19 times in 29 appearances.

He is not the first player to celebrate using a memorable wrestling move.

Last season, Wycombe Wanderers forward Adebayo Akinfenwa performed the People’s Elbow, the signature finisher of Hollywood superstar The Rock, on team-mate Luke O’Nien.