He rarely tires of telling the story of the day he marked the great Marco van Basten out of the game but Alan Knill, Sheffield United’s assistant manager, admits he wouldn’t ever have fancied his chances against Blades skipper Billy Sharp.
The big moment of former defender Knill’s career came in 1988, when the Welsh back four was decimated by injury and he was called up to face that year’s European champions, as a 24-year-old playing for fourth division side Swansea.
Knill ended up man-marking van Basten, Wales lost 1-0 to Ruud Gullit’s 82nd-minute goal and Knill went back to Swansea, never to play for Wales again.
“I wouldn’t have fancied marking Billy in my day,” Knill smiled, after Sharp scored the 200th and 201st goals of his career on Saturday at MK Dons to take his total for the season to 29.
“I’d have been okay in the air but when the ball was on the deck, well... I’d be in trouble. He is one of those players who loves to score goals. Even in training, he just wants to keep on putting the ball in the back of the net.
“You can try and give people that instinct and, with the best ones, it improves with work. But with the very best ones, they just have it anyway. It’s in them. Billy falls into that category. Nobody has to try and bring it out of him because it’s already there.”
Sharp, the 31-year-old boyhood Blades fan, ended a seven-game run without a goal by netting against Bradford on Easter Monday.
A brace of typically clinical finishes in Saturday’s 3-0 victory at Stadium:mk then put him within one of becoming the first United striker to hit 30 league goals in a season since Keith Edwards in 1983/84.
Victory over Chesterfield on Saturday will see Chris Wilder’s side finish their League One winning campaign on exactly 100 points, and Sharp’s strike partner Leon Clarke is also looking to end a stop-start campaign on a high after netting six times in his last five games.
“Leon has played with niggly injuries which is hard, it doesn’t do you any favours,” Sharp added.
“When he came back in training, you could tell he was okay. He looked fast, quick, mobile and he bullies defenders and makes space for me as well.”
United’s U23s lost 2-1 to Crewe at Bramall Lane yesterday.