The Keepmoat Stadium will always hold a special place in Billy Sharp’s heart.
But, ahead of this afternoon’s derby clash against his old Doncaster Rovers side, the Sheffield United striker has pledged to put any emotions aside come 3pm.
The striker, who joined Rovers from United in 2009 before making his loan move permanent a year later, scored 40 goals in 77 league starts before a £1.8m move to Southampton; then managed by current Blades boss Nigel Adkins.
During his time at Rovers, Sharp and partner Jade Fair lost their newborn son, Luey, to a condition known as gastroschisis. Less than 72 hours later, Sharp played - and scored - for Rovers in their defeat to Middlesbrough. Under his shirt, Sharp revealed a touching message - ‘That’s for you, Son’.
“Going to Doncaster was one of the most important times of my career,” Sharp, speaking earlier this week at United’s training ground, remembers.
“I left United, the club that I loved, and it was a stepping stone at the time.
“But it became more than a club to me, because of what I went through there.
“It’s the first time I’ll be going back as an away player, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Sharp, who scored 53 goals in 80 league starts in a successful spell at Scunthorpe after leaving United for the first time in 2005, was booed by sections of the Glanford Park crowd earlier this season in United’s 1-0 victory there back in December last year - with the striker, predictably, scoring the winner.
“I thought I’d get a good reception at Scunthorpe but I didn’t, so you never know,” he smiled.
“But I’ll be doing a job for Sheffield United at Doncaster, and giving everything to score. It’s a South Yorkshire derby so it adds that extra but of spice.
“I know a few of the lads there and it will be nice to see some friendly faces. But we’ve got a job to do and we want to do it for the fans.”
Sharp and Jade later set up a charity, the LJS Foundation, in memory of their son. The 30-year-old scored against Rovers in a 3-1 United win at Bramall Lane earlier this season; he also scored for Rovers in both games against United in 2010/11.