Sheffield United: Why his beloved Blades armband leaves Billy Sharp feeling blue!
As a boyhood Blade, Billy Sharp dreamed about one day being the skipper of Sheffield United - but only one aspect of captaincy troubles him.
“I don’t like the colour of the armband,” the striker smiles, half tongue-in-cheek but with just enough to suggest he probably means it deep down.
“But I love being captain of this club. It was what I dreamed of as a kid.
I would have been happy to do it just once. But to lead the team out every week is a great feeling.
“I would like to say it hasn’t changed me, but it probably has a bit. Last season, I could have a bit of a tantrum and could have had a few at Gillingham because I missed a few chances.
“But I have to stay focused and encouraging the boys. There are a lot of captains out there for us, a lot of vocal lads and that is great.”
Sharp isn’t wrong. Jake Wright was captain at his previous club Oxford United, Jack O’Connell recently wore the armband in the Checkatrade Trophy against Leicester City and the sparse crowd allowed the few in attendance to witness a masterclass in communication from goalkeeper Simon Moore, who barked orders at his back four for the entire 90 minutes.
“We have a lot of experienced lads,” Sharp added.
“Jake has been a captain himself and I can hear him all the time on the pitch, so that is good.
“Simon, too, is a good talker and organises the back three or four all the time. Voices help. Everyone talking only makes it easier.”
Talking is one thing, but Sharp also led by example on Sunday when he stepped up and converted a late penalty to give his side all three points in front of the Sky cameras at Gillingham.
Sharp was handed the chance to convert from 12 yards after Josh Pask’s inexplicable handball, which followed Kieron Freeman’s equaliser.
And the Blades skipper said: “There is always pressure with a penalty in the last minute but I was happy to take it. No problem at all.
“The goalkeeper was trying to have a bit of banter with me. I can’t tell you what he said. I can’t repeat it, anyway!
“I managed to hit it well and we got the three points, which was the main thing. I can’t remember the last time we won away or the last time we have won two games on the trot in the league. So, hopefully, we can build on this and go on a winning streak.”
The penalty put Sharp on three goals for the League One season, following his 21 last term. He had a couple of chances to add to his tally at the Priestfield, uncharacteristically hesitating in one chance in the first half before placing a free header wide of the target in the second.
“If I had hit the target with the header, then that would have been a goal,” the 30-year-old added.
“I was disappointed with that one, because I didn’t hit the target. Despite that, I did feel I was going to score. We were creating so many chances and I did have a hand in the equaliser before scoring the penalty, so that was pleasing.
“It was good that the gaffer kept me on the pitch so I could get that penalty.”
Back-to-back league victories have eased the mood around Bramall Lane a little after a sketchy start, ahead of this weekend’s trip to AFC Wimbledon.
And Sharp said: “The season is up and running now thanks to these two wins. I think we were a little unlucky in a couple of games earlier in the season.
“We didn’t get anything but we probably deserved to. Millwall was one of those. Their lad handballed it at Gillingham but it was the opposite at Millwall in the last minute, when Jack did the same.
“Two wins on the trot, and one of those away from home, means we can go into another away game feeling confident. That can only be good for everyone.
“Team spirit comes from games like this. When you go into the dressing room, there is nothing better than doing that after a win in the last minute.”