Chris Wilder thinks Billy Sharp will get even better with age after watching the centre-forward fire Sheffield United to victory over Brentford.
Sharp scored the only goal of the game after combining with Leon Clarke as last season’s League One title-winners began the new Championship campaign in style.
United’s captain has now hit the target 31 times in his previous 50 outings; a statistic Wilder believes makes a mockery of claims Sharp’s best years are behind him.
“Billy will get even smarter with his play with age,” United’s manager said. “He looks after himself. He gets tagged a little bit, about a shout that he’s had for a few years, but I tell you what; I’d swap the way he looks. I’d swap, definitely. Have you seen those pictures when you were in Vegas on the end of season trip? They all look after themselves and they have to.
“Billy’s goal record speaks for itself,” Wilder added. “He’s a genuine goalscorer and I think he’s get better through age. You look at some of the lads in the Championship - David Nugent is one - they all seem to blossom later in their careers. Billy can do that.”
Sharp, aged 31, insisted he can reach double figures again after ensuring United edged a fascinating encounter with Dean Smith’s side.
“I try and score 20 every year. If I don’t get there, I’ll be disappointed,” he said. “I’ve done it before in the Championship.”
“If I stay fit and play 40 plus games, I think that will help this club massively. I know I can play in the Championship. I know I can score in the Championship.”
“We know it’s going to be harder but we’re becoming a good partnership, me and Leon,” Sharp continued. “Hopefully we can stay fit and the boys behind us keep pushing. We’ve got four or five strikers here who I think can score goals at this level.”
United, who return to action in Carabao Cup on Wednesday, prevailed thanks to their more clinical finishing after Brentford spurned several opportunities.
“We all get told what we can’t do,” Wilder said. “And that will be with us until we prove people wrong. Do we take massive notice of what people say? We just believe in what we’re doing and we’ve got something going here. The atmosphere was electric and the players thrive off that.”
“I thought Billy and Leon were excellent,” he added. “Leon was another with a point to prove. I thought those two caused quite a few problems; taking nothing away from the opposition.”