Sheffield United: Boss makes no attempt to try and soften Billy Sharp blow

Billy Sharp will be a huge miss, Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom has admitted, after it emerged the centre-forward’s ankle complaint is worse than first thought.
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The news could also affect Heckingbottom’s thinking on Daniel Jebbison and Will Osula, after he suggested earlier this week that either one or both of the teenage striker’s could be loaned out in order to accelerate their development.

United initially believed Sharp had suffered only minor damage after standing on an opponent’s foot during the first-half of last weekend’s visit to Middlesbrough; particularly as he was able to carry on until the interval.

Middlesbrough player Anfernee Dijksteel challenges Billy Sharp of Sheffield United: Stu Forster/Getty ImagesMiddlesbrough player Anfernee Dijksteel challenges Billy Sharp of Sheffield United: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Middlesbrough player Anfernee Dijksteel challenges Billy Sharp of Sheffield United: Stu Forster/Getty Images
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But speaking ahead of today’s meeting with Blackburn Rovers, Heckingbottom confirmed a scan had revealed the true extent of Sharp’s injury. United are scheduled to consult with a specialist in order to decide the 36-year-old’s next course of action.

“It’s the know-how of being a number nine that comes with Billy,” Heckingbottom told The Star, making no attempt to downplay his disappointment at the news. “We’ll miss him, definitely. There’s no point in pretending otherwise.

“The way we play, we like the ball to stick and then work off that. Billy does it so well and, in fact, I think he’s improved in that regard as he’s got older. He has such a good tactical understanding and when he’s been fit, under me, he’s usually started more often than not. That’s a reflection on his ability rather than his age.”

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Lexy Ilsley / SportimageSheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage

“This is why we’ve got the squad we’ve got, though,” Heckingbottom added. “I’d rather Billy be fit, that goes without saying. But I can’t think about that right now. I have to put him out of my mind for the time being.”

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With Sharp absent and Oli McBurnie working his way back from a broken foot, Rhian Brewster and Iliman Ndiaye could spearhead United’s attack against Rovers although Reda Khadra will be hoping to start against the team he represented on loan last term.

Jebbison and Osula, both aged 19, have attracted interest from EFL teams hoping to acquire their services on a temporary basis. Jebbison has made two appearances for United this term. Despite featuring at senior level towards the end of last season, Osula has yet to make a matchday squad since United returned to Championship action. Burton Albion are understood to be interested in taking him on loan after previously working with Jebbison.

Sheffield United striker Daniel Jebbison: Lexy Ilsley / SportimageSheffield United striker Daniel Jebbison: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage
Sheffield United striker Daniel Jebbison: Lexy Ilsley / Sportimage

“Possibly that (Sharp) could affect my thinking with Will and Daniel,” Heckingbottom said. “We want to make sure these lads are progressing, moving forward and getting better. But we also can’t leave ourselves short, that’s something we just can’t do.”

“The great thing about Daniel and Will is that they have that athleticism, pace and ability to really get in behind defences. We’ll see how things pan out.”

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Meanwhile, Ismaila Coulibaly has undergone surgery to cure a cartilage issue discovered during an examination designed to assess another unrelated problem.

“Ismaila, he’s had an operation,” Heckingbottom said. “He went in for something else and then they said ‘This needs doing straight away.’ It was a surprise and he’ll be out for a while.”