Alan Biggs’ Sheffield United Column: Captain, leader, legend – don’t bet against Billy Sharp having biggest last laugh of all by leading his beloved Blades into the Premier League
The bloke’s in such a hurry, best not hang around here. Yet another milestone beckons.
And should he achieve it this Friday night - which you can’t rule out on his current sensational form - this column doesn’t want to be left standing at the gate.
Of course, it’s a team game. No-one exemplifies that more than the man leading Sheffield United from the front, now standing just two short of a century of goals for the Blades.
And yet for much of his career he’s been simply categorised as a “marksman” or “poacher,” a bracket from which few captains emerge.
This one will admit that he’s been quick to throw a strop over the years if he felt his natural talent for doing the hardest thing in football wasn’t fully appreciated.
Not that there’s a chance of either of those things happening to Billy Sharp in 2019. And, as he reminded me once, “Alan Shearer, one of my heroes, captained both club and country.”
Sharp, like Shearer, is much more than a “poacher.” A grafter outside the box, too. A striker of strength and bustle, as he showed in muscling clear to unselfishly set up last Saturday’s breakthrough goal against Bolton.
And a policeman of proper professional ethics in the dressing room.
The team comes first for Billy but then so does he in the scoring stakes; two things not unconnected amid the best form of his prolific career and United’s sustained push for the Premier League.
While his annual target of 20 goals (19 in the league) is already in the bag ahead of Aston Villa away this Friday, Sharp is fixed on the main prize.
But the personal accolades are piling up to a giant pyramid. A 500th league appearance last Saturday was duly met with a 223rd goal. Some ratio. This on top of becoming the 21st century’s highest-scoring striker in English league football - and the fact the Blades have not lost any of the last 48 matches in which he’s netted.
With a richly deserved new contract about to be signed, we’re in the eye of a storm of tributes. He even had a birthday this week, 33 on Tuesday.
There are younger men pushing for his place, including two signed on loan during the window. Sharp’s pride, above all, is standing in the way and, if he did have to share some minutes with them, he’d support and cheer.
It was a couple of seasons ago, in League One, that he told viewers to my Sheffield Live show: “If I throw my arms in the air like I have done all my career, it’s not looking good from the fans’ point of view and team-mates. Not setting a good example.”
Billy has proved true to that, despite having had to really battle for his place to the point where, having proved himself fitter than ever, it is as close to automatic as at any other time.
The “fat lad from Sheffield,” as he playfully likes to call himself in answering so many foolish write-offs, is having plenty of last laughs.
And shooting the Blades to another promotion can be the biggest one of all. Quite a belly laugh, in fact!