Alan Biggs: Young legs can drag more out of older heads at Sheffield United

Billy Sharp and Leon Clarke - Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Billy Sharp and Leon Clarke - Simon Bellis/Sportimage
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Only 11 players scored more Championship goals last season than Billy Sharp.

One of them was Leon Clarke, his Sheffield United team-mate. Only two scored more than Clarke.

And only two of the top dozen marksmen (separated by a mere eight goals) won promotion with their sides – Diogo Jota (Wolves), 17, and Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham), 15. Both of whom were outgunned by Clarke’s 19.

It suggests two things;-

That successful teams at this level tend to have, and need, a spread of goals (Sessegon is not a striker anyway).

And that, above all, Chris Wilder has a tall order to improve on or match his main men in his pursuit of two new strikers.

Not that they aren’t needed because – following the departures of Clayton Donaldson and James Hanson - ideally you need four top-notchers to perm from and there was an over-reliance on Clarke and Sharp, albeit that he wasn’t always a regular starter. But it is an unusual one in some ways.

If I was either of those two I’d be bloody determined, based on their output last season, to ensure no-one bettered my claims on the shirt; which is just the way Wilder would want it.

And it seems to me the stand-out statistic when people judge them is not so much the goals they scored (32 between them) as their ages – Clarke 33, Sharp 32. Reason again for motivation, much as it markedly isn’t a discriminatory factor for the manager.

Getting away from stats and using eyes only, my perception on the gap United are trying to close as an attacking team going close – both in front of goal and to the top six – is that it wasn’t to do with missed chances by strikers. Or at least not many.

I thought, for what it’s worth, that the final ball or link-up play didn’t quite make the most of numerous advantageous positions in many matches across the season.

And that a better supply of clear chances to Clarke and Sharp would have maximised an already healthy return.

But, while age doesn’t count against them yet and Clarke is certainly blessed with enduring speed, a touch of more youthful zip up front will figure in the manager’s calculations and help tilt tight games. Plus that edge of greater rivalry – allied to more scoring impact from elsewhere.