Sheffield United: ‘If anyone has to beat my goal record, I hope it’s Billy Sharp’ says fellow legend of Bramall Lane

Any Sheffield United fan who has met Keith Edwards - and plenty more who haven't - will testify that he is fiercely proud of his Blades goal record and is readily able, and even more willing, to talk anyone through almost any one of his 170 goals in two spells at Bramall Lane.

Monday, 11th February 2019, 17:57 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th February 2019, 06:15 am
Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd celebrates his second goal at Villa: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Despite going on to play for clubs including Leeds, Aberdeen and Hull, United remained close to Edwards' heart and it is a mark of the esteem in which he holds current United skipper Billy Sharp, that he would be happy to see him overtake his record.

Well, not really.

"A bloke said this to me recently in the park when I was walking my dog," Edwards told The Star. 

Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"He said 'he might get your record' and was saying stuff like 'well, records are there to be broken...'

"I'm fiercely competitive and said to him, 'you haven't got any records have you?' It doesn't feel like they're there to be broken when you're the one who's got it!

"But all jokes aside, if anyone was to beat it I hope it's Billy. He's a Sheffield lad and having watched practically all his games at Sheffield United, he's a player I've always liked and supported.

Billy Sharp of Sheffield Utd celebrates his second goal at Villa: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

"It's such a unique thing to United, isn't it? The captain's a Sheffield-born Blade, the manager's a Sheffield-born Blade and one of the owners is, too.

"I think an awful lot of people would like that but Sheffield people, even more so. That's why they sing about Chris Wilder being 'one of their own'.

"That's why Billy will always be remembered in the history of this club.

"People all the time ask me if I have any regrets and honestly, I wish I'd been from Sheffield. The club is 'my club' anyway because they gave me my break, but it'd have meant so much more to me if I was a Sheffield boy.

Former Sheffield United player Keith Edwards. Picture: Marie Caley

"Although, to be fair, I've been here that long that people think I am from Sheffield anyway. I have to bring out the north-east accent occasionally to remind them."

Now a popular pundit on BBC Radio Sheffield, the Blades legend, from Stockton-on-Tees, was at Villa Park last Friday as Sharp scored a hat-trick, including his 100th Blades goal, as United romped into a 3-0 lead over Aston Villa.

But three goals in the last 13 minutes of the game for the hosts forced Wilder's United to settle for a point, as the race for promotion to the Premier League prepares to enter the final stretch.

Watching the game was one of Sharp's boyhood heroes, former Blade Brian Deane, who scored 119 goals in three spells with United.

Keith Edwards

"In time, I'm sure Billy will look back on his hat-trick and passing 100 goals for United with fondness," Deane said.

"When you're playing and scoring, you just want to keep playing and scoring so he'll just be looking for the next game now. 

"In my career there were times when it didn't matter what was happening or who we were playing... I used to know the day before a game that I was going to score.

"Billy will feel the same way, he'll be confident because of the way the team is set up. 

"That gives you an energy, excitement and a real buzz, when you're in confident mood. It's hard to describe, really. You feel really light, you can't smile enough and just can't wait for the games to come round.

"Scoring goals is like a drug for a striker ... it's what you're judged on, and what you get high on."

Brian Deane celebrates his historic goal

Now 33, Sharp is the second tier's leading scorer with 22 goals and earlier this season broke the record for Football League goals since the turn of the millennium, overtaking his old Southampton teammate Rickie Lambert to earn another accolade that will certainly take some beating.

"Billy reminds me a little bit of myself, in the regard that he gets the 'easy goals'," smiles Edwards.

"The clever thing about the tap-ins, though, is that you've got to be in the right place, or else you can't tap it in.

"It used to frustrate the hell out of me when people said I only ever scored tap-ins. The key is getting in the right place and making it look easy, which is exactly what Billy Sharp does.

"Does it come naturally to all players? I don't think it does. It's about anticipation and reading the game, and that's what he's so, so good at.

"No goalscorer ever gets tired of scoring goals, and it doesn't matter if it is an easy one from a yard out or a screamer, like I remember him scoring away at Shrewsbury when he smashed it in the top corner.

"The sad news is that once it's all over, it's heartbreaking."

Sharp, who was confirmed as Wilder's captain immediately after he replaced Nigel Adkins in the Bramall Lane hotseat in 2016 and scored 30 goals as United romped to the League One title, winning 100 points for the first time in the club's history.

It was Adkins, who the striker had previously worked with at Southampton and Reading, who brought the boyhood Blade back to the Steel City, after two previous spells didn't see him hit the same heights.

Sharp came through United's academy system before being sold to Scunthorpe in 2005. A goal-laden spell at Glanford Park persuaded United to buy him back, for around £2m, but after netting just eight times in the league he was loaned, and then sold, to Doncaster Rovers.

Spells at Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Reading, another loan at Rovers and then Leeds followed, before he returned to Bramall Lane for a third time in 2015.

"God knows why it didn't work out before for Billy," Edwards added.

"It must have been a huge disappointment for him, with United being his club even though he played for a host of other clubs.

"If it did, I think it's fair to say he'd have spent an awful long time at this club because we'd certainly not contemplate getting rid now.

"I went to Leeds, as Billy did, and I don't mind admitting that I loved it there. But it wasn't the right type of play to get the best out of me.

"Billy had that before, when he came back the second time. To see him now, it's unthinkable that he would ever be sold but when players move clubs, a lot of things have to be right and sometimes, it just doesn't work. It's not the right fit.

"As a player we went through a stage under Ian Porterfield when we had all these wingers, like Colin Morris and Terry Curran, and it just didn't work. Square pegs in round holes.

"This time, maybe it's worked for Billy because the timing was right. Previously the team just didn't suit him, which was a shame because he showed glimpses of what he was capable of.

"But he's here now, he's an absolute pleasure to watch and I'm thrilled for him with how well he's doing."

Sharp cut a disconsolate figure at full-time at Villa Park as he picked up the match-ball and his man of the match award from Sky Sports, and will almost certainly lead the line again on Wednesday when United host Middlesbrough at Bramall Lane.

“From a personal point of view, it’s very satisfying when you score and although the team ended up drawing the game, at the end of the day scoring goals is what a striker is paid to do," said Deane.

“Sometimes you have to accept that you’ll get goals and the team will concede, just as at other times you’ll miss a chance and the defence will win the game. 

“In my career I remember I was always disappointed not to score but I’m sure in time, he’ll look back with fond memories of scoring the hat-trick and going past 100 goals for Sheffield United. As a forward you always think about goals because that’s what you’re ultimately judged on.

"Now and again Billy and I will text or something. I know he talks fondly of me and I like watching him, seeing him score goals. 

“He’s got a genuine energy on the pitch, more than a lot of forwards seem to have, and seems really energised in the box.You need those kinds of players, and I enjoy watching him.

“As you get older, you become smarter and so when playing against less experienced players, it’s easier to find space in the box. As long as you’re still relatively fit and mobile, it can be a good time as you’re coming up against players who don’t have the experience to handle your movement. 

“Am I surprised Billy is still scoring at 33? Not at all. He’s a goalscorer but he works tremendously hard, closing down defenders and he sets the tempo of the team. 

“He knows his game and his strengths, in and out of possession, and there’s no pressure on him whatsoever – other than being in the right place at the right time when that ball drops. And to be fair, he’s doing that brilliantly.”