Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp has hailed this year’s LJS Cup as the “best to date” after paying tribute to former club Middlewood Rovers for staging the event.
Sharp, who organises the competition in memory of his late son, Luey, feared it would be cancelled due to flooding at Waverley Lane but described how groundstaff went “above and beyond” to clear the playing surface.
“The second day got off to a really wet start,” Sharp said. “Overnight rainfall and thunder storms flooded a quarter of a pitch. When my wife, Jade, and I arrived at 7:30 am, the Middlewood staff had already been there an hour trying to get the water off and make the pitch playable.
“The guys there showed great effort and teamwork and are all hard-working, reliable and loyal people. There was only one thing I could do; roll up my trousers, take off my shoes and socks off and muck in.”
Norton won the under-nines section, beating Lancashire outfit Allstars in the final, while Thorncliffe triumphed in the U-10s category. Wickersley finished as U-11 and U-12 runners-up, behind Woodman and Horsforth respectively.
Sharp’s United teammates, Che Adams and George Long, presented the medals and trophies while £3,000 was raised for Martin House Children’s Hospice which, the centre-forward said, “holds a special place in our hearts”.
“We cannot thank each and every member of staff at Middlewood Rovers enough for putting in so much effort to ensure the tournament went ahead smoothly,” Sharp, who represented them as a youngster, said. “It’s the club where I began my footballing dream as an eight-year-old before securing a short term scholarship at Rotherham. Later, I signed professional terms at Sheffield United, my boyhood club and, of course, the club I have the honour of captaining next season.
“We also want to thank so much the teams for entering and of course all the children who participated. A special mention must go to the photographer, Russ Sheppard, and Simon Hall and his refereeing team.
“Plans for next year’s cup are well under way and we look forward to seeing everyone there to continue the memory of our special boy, Luey Jacob Sharp.”
United manager Chris Wilder, who handed Sharp the armband after being appointed earlier this summer, hopes to make another breakthrough in the transfer market shortly.
Wilder told reporters before the start of pre-season training last week that United’s negotiating team were hopeful of adding to his squad “within the next seven to 10 days”.
Mark Duffy and Chris Hussey have arrived at Bramall Lane from Birmingham City and Bury respectively while Kyle McFadzean of MK Dons features on Wilder’s list of possibilities as he attempts to rebuild the heart of United’s defence. Jay McEveley, David Edgar and Alex Baptiste all left South Yorkshire at the end of the previous campaign.
Wilder recently outlined plans to recruit some young Premier League players on loan during the closing stages of the window. But he has dismissed suggestions this will affect the career prospects of Steelphalt Academy graduates.
“Our own young players will always get a chance if they show they are good enough,” Wilder said. “This football club is proud of its youth system and its record in developing players. Quite rightly so. We will use the academy properly. We view it as very important to us and the club as a whole.”