Sheffield United: Why ex-Championship boss believes fitness of key Blades man could be pivotal in their hopes of reaching Premier League
Gary Rowett, the former Stoke City manager, believes Sheffield United’s hopes of securing automatic promotion to the Premier League this season depend on the fitness of Billy Sharp after appearing to suggest that the Blades rely heavily on their skipper’s goals.
Sheffield-born Blades fan Sharp has been one of the leading lights in United’s superb season so far, netting 23 times to help Chris Wilder's side to second in the Championship standings.
A 1-0 victory over promotion rivals Leeds United, at Elland Road in their last outing, put the Blades in pole position to claim a top-two place going into the international break.
They return to action this weekend against Bristol City at Bramall Lane, and Rowett said: “If you look at the teams at the top of the Championship they all have goals in them.
“Norwich have Teemu Pukki – and Billy Sharp is banging them in for Sheffield United. Leeds share their goals around more – and that could be the key.
“By the looks of it, Norwich should win enough in the next few weeks to get themselves over the line.
Sign up to our Sheffield United newsletter
“All it could take now is one good week where they pick up six or nine points. If the others slip up, it’s Norwich plus one.
“It could come down to a couple of injuries. What would happen to Sheffield United if Billy Sharp picked up a knock, for instance?
“Chris Wilder has assembled a rough and ready group who look capable of staying the course. But could they cope without Sharp?
“Obviously, it might not come to that. Honestly? I wouldn’t like to call it at this stage.”
Despite Rowett’s view, however, United have won six of their seven games since Sharp last scored – drawing the other one – and have netted 11 times, without conceding.
United travel to Rowett’s old club Stoke on the last day of the regular Championship season on Sunday, May 5.