BILLY Sharp may well have left Doncaster Rovers to fight their own battles for Championship survival after electing to join Southampton on Monday, but he will always receive a warm welcome at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The down-to-earth 25 year-old may only have been on Rovers’ books for just over 18 months, though he did play for them on loan for most of the 2009-10 season, but he achieved legendary status with supporters during that time and will go down as one of the most popular players ever to have worn the club’s red and white colours.
He scored some tremendous goals during his time at the club and the goal he scored against Middlesbrough, just days after the tragic death of his new-born son, has been voted one of the best of 2011.
Who will ever forget the moment when Sharp lifted up his Rovers’ shirt after scoring the goal to reveal a red T-shirt with the words ‘That’s for you son’ printed in white letters?
It was typical of Sharp to wear his heart on his sleeve and that is what helped make him so popular with fans, and not only Doncaster supporters. I well remember the reception he received a few days later at Ipswich from home fans both when his name was called out prior to the game and when he scored for Rovers - a gesture which not only reflected well on Blues’ fans but Sharp as well.
It was typical of Sharp that he made sure of thanking the Ipswich supporters during the post-match interviews.
Although he was probably the best paid player on Rovers’ books, money never seemed to be his main motive for playing football. Scoring goals was.
His goal-scoring exploits whilst at Doncaster, who can take credit for reviving his career after he struggled to secure regular first-team football on his return to Sheffield United, were always going to attract interest from bigger clubs. I think he has made a good choice in selecting Southampton where he will link up again with manager Nigel Adkins - who was at Scunthorpe when Sharp couldn’t stop scoring - at a club who are well-placed to win promotion to the Premier League.
All Rovers’ fans will be sorry to see Sharp go. A lot will fear that his departure hammers a final nail in the club’s relegation coffin.
But that would be the last thing that Sharp would want and I’m sure he would want all fans to get behind Dean Saunders’ men in their battle for survival.
And that would be a message that I would endorse.
If everyone pulls together, Rovers have a chance. If they don’t then the club can start preparing for League One.