Sheffield United: Skipper on The Blades' "nightmare" summer and why he now ignores the advice given to him by one former manager
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United, who unveiled the Serb as their new manager after being relegated from the Premier League, played only two warm-up fixtures instead of the planned five before facing Birmingham City earlier this month because of disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of those was against Gibraltarians Europa Point rather than Portuguese top-flight outfit Braga, with Jokanovic also forced to abandon 10 days of training when two members of his squad tested positive for the coronavirus.
With United entering today’s match at Luton Town still searching for their first win of the Championship campaign, Sharp said: “Pre-season has been a nightmare for everyone. The way we want to play, it’s all about rhythm. Because of what happened, we went into it trying to find that instead of already having it.”
Although Jokanovic has refused to use the disruption as an excuse, stressing that “everyone” has endured “the same difficulties”, the fact he was trying to implement a new playing style at the time meant they impacted upon United more than many of their divisional rivals. That has prompted the 53-year-old to describe the forthcoming international break, which begins after the trip to Bedfordshire, as a critical period of his reign.
Sharp’s form - after scoring his 250th career goal against Huddersfield Town last weekend, he was again on target during Tuesday’s Carabao Cup win over Derby County - has been a rare success story at Bramall Lane in recent weeks.
Despite turning 35 in February, the centre-forward believes he is getting better with age.
Detailing how he now ignores the advice given to him by one former United manager during a previous spell at Bramall Lane, Sharp said: “With experience, you improve. Kevin Blackwell used to tell me to run around or I’d be off the pitch. So I ran around like an idiot.
“Now I’ve grown up and I don’t run if I know I’m not going to get the ball. You can’t do the same things you could when you were 19 so you work hard, keep trying to improve and focus on the things that you know you’re good at.”