“He asked for a shirt similar to mine for Luey,” said Sheffield United skipper Billy Sharp, whose ‘That’s for you, son’ message on his T-shirt following the tragic death of his two-day-old boy back in 2012 touched the footballing world.
“So he got a goal in his last game and revealed the message, so that was nice.”
For Sharp, wife Jade and the rest of the family it was another poignant moment on a weekend full of them at the LJS Cup, the yearly tournament hosted in little Luey’s memory.
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This, the ninth instalment, was the first in which both Sharp’s sons were old enough to play and even as Milo starred for Middlewood, and older brother Leo helped Brunsmeer Athletic win the U10 trophy, the memory of Luey was never too far away.
“It was a good day for our household and a good day for football, too – apart from a 20-minute storm!” Sharp told The Star with a wry smile.
“It was another great turnout and all the teams turned up, which always helps. I was lucky enough to see both my boys playing for the first time and Milo’s celebration was a nice moment.
“He’s done well this season, he loves football and he was disappointed not to win the trophy. But he’s got a few more years to have a crack at winning it. Leo’s side have won the trophy twice in three years and lost in the final last year, so they’re doing alright.”
Victory this time around saw something of a mini-Blades rivalry on the pitch, with young Leo going up against John Fleck’s oldest son in the final and both United stars, and great mates, watching from the sideline. “That was tough,” Sharp said. “It was decided with a great goal from Max … a sidefoot volley with 30 seconds to go. I’m glad because a penalty shootout would have been horrible.”
‘An amazing boost’
The ninth edition of the LJS Cup was also the first held since the completion of a superb new £700,000 clubhouse at Middlewood’s Waverley Lane home. Sharp came through the ranks at Middlewood and his former club host the tournament every year, with chairman Chris Dennison describing the recently-opened facility as an “amazing boost”.
Their most famous old boy was suitably impressed, too. “We’ve got proper toilets this year. I like that!” Sharp said.
“It’s a great space, and I know there'll be more improvements as well in the future. It's been a long time coming but it's fully deserved, and the facilities are probably better than ours at Shirecliffe [United’s training ground]. I don’t mind saying it.
“I’m proud to say I came through Middlewood and the facility is great for Chris and everyone else who’s worked so hard for so long.
“The tournament gets bigger and better each year, and we’ve got a job on our hands to make it even better next year for the 10th anniversary. But we’ll come up with some ideas and it’ll be a success again.”