Written by Varun Kumar
The story of the 33-year old Sheffield born striker is one in a million. From being called “The Fat Boy from Sheffield” to carrying his team through the lower divisions of English football and now finally playing in the best league in the world, his journey is inspirational and one that the upcoming generations must learn from.
Sharp touched the hearts of millions around the world with his infamous celebration after scoring the goal against Middlesbrough on 2nd November 2011, just 3 days after the death of his 2-day-old son Luey Jacob. He celebrated by unveiling his undershirt, that read “THAT’S FOR YOU SON”, for which he was not awarded a yellow card by the referee, Darren Deadman, proving that the sport, just like the people who are a part of it, has a heart.
Sharp kicked off his career by playing for the youth teams of Rotherham United and Sheffield United, before making his first-team debut for Sheffield United in the 2004-05 season. This marked the beginning of a player who absolutely demolished the lower leagues of English football. Ironically, Sharp was moved about quite a bit, either on loan or on a permanent basis, to quite a few clubs before he made the striker role at Sheffield his very own.
He moved to Scunthorpe United on a permanent deal in 2005 for just 100,000 pounds. Scunthorpe also signed the 19-year old striker, Andy Keogh, from Leeds.
Both Sharp and Keogh forged a partnership that was lethal, scoring 38 goals between them, with Sharp netting 23 of them.
Sharp continued his form in the 2006-07 season, where he scored 30 goals, helping his team gain promotion into the Championship. His goalscoring feat made his boyhood club come calling and Sharp spent the next three years, from 2007 to 2010 at Bramall Lane.
The striker couldn’t hit the heights in the Championship, scoring just 13 goals over 3 seasons. This lead to the transfer of Sharp to Doncaster Rovers, following a 1-year loan at the same club.
But this time, the striker lived up to his potential scoring a whopping 41 goals in 86 appearances. He moved to Southampton on 30th January 2012, which didn’t really seem to go well as it marked the beginning of the striker being around quite a bit season after season.
Not Sharp Enough?
Sharp defied the odds in his first few months at Southampton scoring important goals in the South Coast Derby against Portsmouth and helped Southampton gain promotion to the Premier League by finishing as runners up in the Championship. Although this was a promising start, Sharp moved to Nottingham Forest on loan for the 2012-13 season. While many would view this as a downgrade, Sharp kept his head down and worked hard. He scored 11 goals in 40 games that helped him finish the season as the club’s highest goal scorer for that season.
He then joined Reading on an emergency loan deal on the 26th of September, 2013, where he linked with his former manager, Nigel Adkins. However, he returned to Southampton on 2nd January after the completion of his loan period, hoping to regain his form and place in the team. But, he was loaned to his former club again, Doncaster Rovers, for the remainder of the 2013-14 season. This loan spell was an unsuccessful one as it ended with them being relegated from the Championship to League One.
On 13th August 2014, Sharp joined the Championship team, Leeds United, where he made efforts to regain his goal-scoring threat, but couldn’t exactly hit the strides that he managed to in the past.
The Talisman comes Home
Although Sharp was playing in Yorkshire, Leeds was not home. So, when he saw an opportunity to return to his boyhood club, no stone was left unturned and he returned to Sheffield United like a Blade who was forged, seasoned and now, ready to be wielded. Sharp averaged more than one goal every two matches, scoring 21 goals in 39 games.
When Chris Wilder was appointed as the manager at the beginning of the 2016 season, he looked nowhere past Billy Sharp for club captain as there was no other character who was more Sheffield than him. Season after season, the blades fought their way up the English Leagues, gaining promotion to the Championship in 2017 and finally to the Premier League, where they currently play week-in week-out. In the process, Billy Sharp went on to hit the 100 goal mark for The Blades and has certainly cemented his place amongst Sheffield United’s icons.
The story of Billy Sharp is one of perseverance and hard work, where he proved his haters wrong year after year. Sharp embodies the principles of hard work and mental strength which has helped him and still helps him to be a character that players can look up to in the dressing room. He scored the Blades’ first Premier League goal of the 2019-20 season, showing that fairy tales do exist and that the home-forged Blade, although a little rusty, still has it in him to lead the fight.
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