James Shield: Sheffield United legend Billy Sharp deserves to be given this honour
and live on Freeview channel 276
And if they are, then either there’s been a seismic shift in the club’s financial position or Lionel Messi has been persuaded to dump Inter Miami for a bottle of Henderson’s Relish and VIP pass at Maggie May’s.
But some are woven into the fabric of United’s history. Not always the most talented ones either, because things like bottle, commitment and loyalty also matter to fans.
Billy Sharp is among them. Although, as his 249 league goals demonstrate, that’s not simply down to the fact he’s a dyed-in-the-wool Blade. A clinical finisher, so clinical in fact that you wouldn’t be surprised to see him strolling around Meadowhall with his wife and kids wearing a white coat and stethoscope, the centre-forward is a generational footballer. Like Tony Currie, Alan Woodward, Keith Edwards, Jimmy Hagan, Joe Shaw, Brian Deane and others, he’ll still be revered by United supporters in years to come. Even those who haven’t even been born yet will learn about his exploits on the pitch for the team he has supported since childhood.
Make no mistake about it whatsoever, after finding the back of the net for United on 129 occasions in 377 appearances, winning three promotions in the process, the lad has lived the dream. It’s Boy’s Own stuff really. A genuine fairytale.
Now that he has departed, in body if not heart, it’s time to talk about giving Sharp the type of send-off the timing of United’s retained and released list didn’t really allow him.
Yes, there was the tearful address to the crowds from the Town Hall balcony during last month’s victory parade - designed to celebrate the squad's return to the Premier League. But nothing, at least not officially, had been decided then.
A forthcoming friendly against Rotherham, one of Sharp’s potential destinations next term according to media reports, might provide an opportunity. Although if that move does transpire, the match is taking place at New York Stadium, not the ground where he became a legendary figure.
Sharp deserves something better. Something much more permanent. Bramall Lane, quite rightly, has already got the ‘Tony Currie Stand’. Now it’s time for the ‘Billy Sharp Kop’; because it’s in front of that where he most enjoyed doing what he does best; smashing the ball past opposition ‘keepers and wheeling away in celebration as they sullenly picked it out of the back of the net.
Admittedly there are plenty of deserving cases who warrant a similar accolade. Given the constraints upon United’s budget, which makes their refusal to entertain shirt sponsorship offers from betting companies pretty laudable, a compelling argument also exists for lucrative naming rights to take priority over celebrating the greats.
But United history is also important. In order for a club to stand for more than the size of its chequebook, be about something other than selling itself to the highest bidder, sacrifices must be made.
To their credit, and I’m usually more critical than most, United’s hierarchy have already made one by rejecting lucrative bids from those gambling firms who wanted to plaster their logo across the front of the first team squad’s shirts. (Yes, with owner Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud hailing from Saudi Arabia, there were also cultural sensibilities to take into account. But, as the Kingdom’s aggressive moves to dominate world sport demonstrate, where there’s money, there’s a way).
There will always be excuses not to do something. Often genuine ones too.
But Sharp deserves the honour of having a part of United’s home named after him. And the wheels should be put in motion now, to ensure that happens at the earliest opportunity.