Sheffield United: The remarkable stat that sets Billy Sharp apart - Alan Biggs' Column

It was all about the team on a terrific Tuesday but let it be noted that Billy Sharp is into double figures. For assists as well as goals!

By Alan Biggs
Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 11:30 am

That stat, following a Bramall Lane blitzing of former boss Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough, is even more remarkable than the 36-year-old Blades skipper hoisting his goal tally to 15.

Sharp’s superb setting-up of the opener and his conversion of the second, courtesy of man-of-the-match Morgan Gibbs-White, meant that he has been instrumental in 25 goals this season.

And only Gibbs-White himself comes close to his ten assists.

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Billy Sharp celebrates during Sheffield United's win over Middlesbrough Isaac Parkin / Sportimage

Talk to football historian Andrew Kirkham and you can go deeper. Across the past two decades no Sheffield United player has laid on more goals than the ace plunderer.

Kirkham’s research puts Billy on 55 assists across his three spells with the club.

Metrics have never been my god but on this occasion they are more powerful than words about the continuing magnificent contribution of this talismanic player.

While the Boro conquest was, by Wilder’s honest admission, inflicted by United being better all over the field, with and without the ball, it’s impossible to overstate the contribution of Sharp and Gibbs-White.

Consider the structure manager Paul Heckingbottom took into the game. Injuries meant he had no overlapping full-back dynamic, no major attacking outlet from a wing-back combination of Ben Osborn and Rhys Norrington-Davies, and only Sharp up front.

It required a brilliant display from the sole striker and Gibbs-White behind him. Both delivered to put Boro to the sword.

In many ways, it was - partly by force of circumstance - a more conservative formation than the one with which Wilder and Alan Knill had so much success at the Lane and will surely continue to advance their careers regardless of this one result.

But it is broadly a return to the Wilder template, with most of the same players, that has turned around United’s season.

And that takes nothing away from Heckingbottom, Stuart McCall and Jack Lester.

Hecky recognised quickly what needed to be done, he has carried the players with him and, with so much proven experience in the side, you can’t see standards being allowed to drop.

The manager also has a knack for demanding more by down-playing a big result. I think there is more to come!