Billy Sharp breaks silence on Sheffield United exit with hint over future return
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Sharp posted an open letter to United fans after the revelation that he, along with teammates Jack O’Connell, Enda Stevens and Kyron Gordon, will leave this summer.
Sharp’s future had been in doubt all summer following United’s promotion, and he cut an emotional figure on the Town Hall balcony as he appeared before thousands of Unitedites on the club’s parade.
Sharp fought back tears as he thanked fans for their support and insisted he would stay “one, five or 10 years” if he could. But following meetings between Paul Heckingbottom and the club’s hierarchy in Geneva, Sharp’s was informed that his third spell at his boyhood club would come to an end this summer.
In his open letter, Sharp admitted his “heart is filled with mixed emotions" and added: “It is with a heavy heart that I announce my departure.”
“My boyhood dream became a reality and what a journey I was lucky to have from a young fan on the Kop to ball boy then player and captain,” he wrote. “Wearing the famous number 10 has been privilege and an honour.
“Wearing the red and white stripes was something I did with enormous pride and when given the captain's armband by Chris Wilder it was something I cherished and wanted to achieve success wearing it.
“I've tried to play and captain the best I could. To hear you all singing my name and for children to look up to me as their hero is the reason I play football.
“From my first goal to my last, the feeling grew stronger and stronger each time. I want to thank the club for all the amazing memories we've shared and for the opportunity to represent my boyhood club.
“I want to thank all the managers I have played for during my time at the club. Your guidance, support and belief in me have been invaluable. You have helped me grow both as a player and as a person, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities you gave me.
“To all the staff from kit men/ladies, cooks and chefs, ticket office staff and groundsmen who have been at the club throughout the years, thank you for looking after me and all the players. To my teammates, I want to thank you for the special bond we shared on and off the pitch. The memories we created together will stay with me forever.”
Sharp departs with a record of 129 goals in 377 games and his status as a legend of the Lane long since secure. He is one of only five players in the club’s long history to win three promotions – along with teammates Chris Basham and John Fleck, his hero Brian Deane and Paul Stancliffe – and only Basham and Nick Montgomery have played more games this decade than Sharp.
A total of 117 league goals puts him ninth on the all-time Blades scoring list – level with his grandad’s hero, the late, great Jimmy Hagan – and fans have called for a variety of tributes to be made, including retiring the iconic No.10 shirt or building a statue at Bramall Lane.
For now, Sharp will look to prolong his playing career past his 38th birthday with the next league goal in a remarkable career bringing up another milestone of 250. He will also bring his sons, Leo and Milo, back to Bramall Lane in the future and appeared to hint that he may return in some capacity in the future by signing off his letter: “It’s goodbye for now...”
"To my family, I want to express my deepest gratitude for your unwavering support and encouragement,” he continued. “Your love and belief in me have been my driving force, and I could not have achieved what I have without you. I am grateful for the sacrifices you have made to help me pursue my dreams.
“For my kids to be able to see their dad wear the Sheffield United shirt and score goals in League One, Championship and Premier League is something we have all loved.
“Lastly, I want to thank the fans for the incredible support over the years. Your passion and loyalty have been the heartbeat of this club. I will always remember the chants and the unwavering support you showed me and the team. Your love for the club is what makes it so special, and I will always be proud to have been a part of it.
“I want to wish the club and players all the best for next season. I'll be watching on as a fan and will bring my kids to watch as much as I can.
"As I move on to the next chapter of my career, I will always carry the memories, the lessons, and the love of this club with me. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to play for this great club, and I will always be a fan.
“I could go on for hours talking about my special times with this football club but it's goodbye for now...
“Your captain, Billy. Once a Blade, forever a Blade. UTB.”