'I'll be looking to kick lumps out of him' - Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp on his 'friendship' with Leeds United's Liam Cooper

Billy Sharp and Liam Cooper, the respective captains of Sheffield United and Leeds, will not allow friendship to get in the way when the two clubs meet at Bramall Lane tomorrow.

Saturday, 26th September 2020, 6:00 am

The two first met after moving to Elland Road six years ago, and have remained close despite Sharp’s return to South Yorkshire 12 months later.

Although they have exchanged messages during the build-up to the fixture - and are planning a get-together afterwards - Sharp told The Star: “It’s no different, playing against a mate.

“I’ve spoken to him yesterday, I’ll speak to him again beforehand and we’ll speak after and shake hands.

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“But when it kicks off, we’ll be looking to kick lumps out of each other, that’s how it is and we both respect that. That’s the competition. It doesn’t change because we are mates.”

Cooper, previously of Hull City and Chesterfield, helped steer Leeds to promotion from the Championship last term, after they were pipped to a place in the Premier League by United a year earlier.

“He signed on the same day as me, he was the first person I spoke to and we just got along,” Sharp continued, explaining how they became pals. “Then we went out for a few games of golf and it went from there really. We’ve been trying to get a few rounds in recently but obviously with the circumstances, and everything that’s going on, it’s been difficult. I’m sure we will though.”

United will enter the lunchtime fixture searching for their first win of the new campaign, after being beaten by Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa. Leeds marked their return to the top-flight with a narrow defeat at Liverpool before overcoming Fulham last weekend.

Billy Sharp, the Sheffield United captain: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“We started very sloppy against Wolves,” Sharp said, echoing his manager Chris Wilder’s belief that John Egan was unfortunate to be sent-off at Villa Park. “I don’t think, because of that, we deserved anything out of that one. I thought, at Villa, after a very harsh sending off we did really well. We need to get back to being hard to beat. But I don’t care how the three points come about, we just want the points. We’re hungry for them and I’m sure the manager will say the same thing.”

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Leeds United captain Liam Cooper poses ahead of the Yorkshire derby at Bramall Lane: Jan Kruger/Getty Images for BT Sport