Sheffield United: Skipper welcomes the prospect of more competition as Chris Wilder's side line-up new additions

Billy Sharp, the Sheffield United captain, has admitted whoever the club signs during next month's transfer window must be capable of immediately commanding a place in Chris Wilder's starting eleven if they are to give themselves the best possible chance of qualifying for the Championship play-offs.

Sunday, 23rd December 2018, 4:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 3:59 pm
Billy Sharp is looking forward to fighting for his place: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

United will enter the second-half of the season ranked sixth, nine points behind second-placed Norwich City and three above Nottingham Forest in seventh, after being held to a draw by the division's bottom side Ipswich Town.

Despite being the dominant force at Portman Road, Wilder's side required a second-half equaliser from Sharp to secure a result both he and assistant manager Alan Knill felt was the very least their performance deserved after Ellis Harrison had opened the scoring against the run of play.

With fellow promotion contenders West Bromwich Albion, Middlesbrough and Derby County, who visit Bramall Lane on Boxing Day, all expected to strengthen when the market reopens for business on January 1st, Sharp acknowledges events over the next five weeks could decide the race for Premier League football.

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"Whoever comes in has got to be capable of improving us," he said. "We've already got a really good group but the gaffer has spoken about bringing some new faces in. That's what will be happening elsewhere, which is why we're looking to strengthen as well.

"We've put ourselves in a good position and it's important we look to build on that. It's what all of the lads here are determined to do."

Sharp, United's leading goalscorer this term, expects another striker to join United before the transfer deadline while Wilder, who has been linked with a move for Everton's Kieran Dowell, also wants to recruit another attacking midfielder. Rangers are also believed to be interested in acquiring Dowell's services on loan but could swoop for Ben Woodburn instead if, as expected, he returns to Liverpool following a frustrating spell in South Yorkshire.

The Wales international was being monitored by the Glaswegians, together with Aston Villa, before agreeing a temporary switch to United earlier this year. However, he made only eight appearances before suffering an injury during training recently.

Paul Lambert, the Ipswich manager, described United as the "best" team his squad has faced since arriving in Suffolk earlier this season following Saturday's contest and Knill, deputising for Wilder at the post-match media conference, said: "We're looking to do some business, to make us stronger, and to try and bring even more out of the really good group we've already got here. We think that will lift the levels even higher and we're working hard to try and get the right ones in."

United are scheduled to train on Christmas Day in preparation for the visit of Frank Lampard's side and Sharp said: "There's a big prize up for grabs and it's part and parcel of the sacrifices we've got to make to try and get to where we want to be.

"We've got a lot of belief in ourselves and the gaffer wants us to show even more. If there's going to be more competition for places, which is what the aim is, then that's not a bad thing. We want to keep driving it forward and not to give up the situation that we're in."