Not many players who have represented eight different clubs can claim club legendary status at any of them, but Billy Sharp can certainly do so with Sheffield United.
The self-described “fat lad from Sheffield” shares his birthday with Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, and both players should be honoured that they are in the esteemed company of the Blades’ legend.
Infinitely more likeable than either of those lads, however, Sharp is an old-fashioned goal scorer who seems to take genuine pleasure in every goal he scores. On New Year’s Day he became the top scorer in English league football this century when he notched his 220th league goal at Wigan, overtaking Rickie Lambert in the process.
Beginning his career in 2004, Sharp is just 16 goals away from his 250th career goal, and two away from his 100th in the red-and-white of Sheffield United. At the rate he’s going, he’ll easily clear both milestones by the end of the calendar year.
No one in England has been more prolific than Sharp since the turn of the century, and his goalscoring has been astronomical since his return to the Steel City. He’s currently enjoying his third spell at Bramall Lane, and by far his most fruitful. Since returning to the Blades in 2015, he’s managed 83 league goals in 152 games, averaging better than a goal every two games.
His 51 goals in 90 League One appearances were crucial in the club’s promotion to the Championship in 2017, and his 13 goals last season helped Sheffield United exceed expectations with a mid-table finish in their first season back in the second tier, although Leon Clarke did steal the limelight with his 19 goals.
Sharp, who turned 33 on Tuesday, is also the Championship’s top scorer this season with 19 goals and he has been a key factor in Sheffield United’s promotion push. His partnership with David McGoldrick has been surprisingly lethal, with the pair providing 31 of Sheffield United’s 50 league goals this season. It is the joint highest strike partnership in the league and that is quite staggering considering both are the wrong side of 30.
Billy Sharp has scored 19 @SkyBetChamp goals in 2018-19
Only 7 #SheffieldUnited players have scored 20+ lge goals in 2nd tier in a season in the club’s history:
— Goodbrand Stats (@StatsChristian) February 8, 2019
But Sharp has never been a player who relied on his pace to score goals. Lethal inside the box, Sharp could drift through a game without doing anything and still score twice. His type is gradually being eradicated from the game in favour of a more dynamic forward, which is a crying shame.
It hasn’t been all plain sailing for the striker, however. Sharp’s initial stints with this boyhood club were abject by his standards and could hardly be considered noteworthy. In 66 games, Sharp scored just 13 times for Sheffield United across two different spells. Those two spells sandwiched the Blades’ only top-flight appearance this century, meaning that he has just two Premier League appearances to his name, both with Southampton.
If Sheffield United do manage to achieve promotion this season, the Premier League will be just reward for a player who has always endeared himself to fans wherever he’s played. He deserves at least one full season in the big league. So please, Blades, if you do get yourselves promoted, don’t send him out on loan.