Keith Edwards hails 'hungry' Billy Sharp as he joins 100 league goal club for Sheffield United

Keith Edwards admits he doesn't like the phrase. But, when discussing the thirst for goals he shares with Sheffield United centurion Billy Sharp, it's the best he can think of to explain it.

Wednesday, 13th January 2021, 5:10 pm

"It's like a drug," the former Blades striker says. "You can't score the next goal quick enough. You're always wanting to break records and reach targets as a goalscorer.

"I was conscious of Mick Jones' scoring record and wanted to beat it. You learn to live with that sort of standard that you set yourself.

"And Billy will be no different."

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Fittingly, Edwards was one of the privileged few inside Bramall Lane on Tuesday evening as Sharp scored the winner from the penalty spot against Newcastle United.

It sealed a first Premier League victory of the season for the Blades and also brought Sharp his 100th league goal in United colours. The last man to reach that milestone for United was Edwards, back in 1984.

"It's a nice feeling," Edwards told The Star this week.

"When you first start playing you start your scrapbooks and know how many you've scored and then as you go on, you tend to forget about them more and put less cuttings in there. If I remember right, I got my 100th on the same day Bob Hatton got his 200th, which was a nice occasion.

"Once you've got the 100, the next target is 200. I was thrilled for Billy when he got there.

"There have been so many wonderful stories since Chris Wilder came back to the club, and I think Sheffield folk love to see their own do well.

"I sometimes have to remind people that I'm not a proper Sheffielder, because I've been here since 1975, and I take that as a huge compliment.

Sheffield United's Billy Sharp celebrates scoring the winner against Newcastle United - which was also his 100th league goal for the Blades: Stu Forster/PA Wire

"The club isn't going through the best time at the minute but it's great for him to reach that milestone. One hundred goals for your own club is very special."

Boyhood Blade Sharp came off the bench against Newcastle, a club he had a soft spot for as a youngster, and played a big part in winning the penalty as he pressured Federico Fernández into knocking the ball away with his hand.

Referee Andy Madley pointed to the spot after reviewing the incident on his pitchside monitor and Edwards, in position as an expert summariser for local radio, said: "It took an age to get the penalty and when it was given he picked up that ball quicker than anyone, as if to say: 'No-one's getting this but me'.

Billy Sharp of Sheffield United scores from the spot against Newcastle United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

"When you consider how the last 10 minutes, it needed a cool head. And we didn't show too many of those in the final 10 minutes!

"But I'm glad Billy picked it up and tucked it away. It certainly took some bottle.

"It's alright being confident but there's always 10 per cent of you that thinks: 'If I miss this...'

"For me, not having a crowd there makes it even harder. But it's just his mindset, to pick up the ball and say: ‘This is mine'. There's always that bit of doubt, so total credit to him.

"The hunger still seems to be there. I think some players lose that hunger when they aren't playing on a regular basis and I'm not saying I know Billy that well, but I think he always expects to be playing.

Sharp turns away to celebrate his first league goal for the Blades, against Coventry City in 2008

"In my time, if you weren't playing then you'd been dropped. Today, there's a million reasons a player might not start. He might be rested or whatever. And there's an awful lot of competition up-front at United, as well.

"He hasn't had as many chances as he'd have liked, but he's conducted himself extremely well and that's a real credit to him.

"I remember getting left out back in 1978 and whether it's then or now, it still hurts. And he's dealt with that extremely well.

"He is one of the best strikers I've seen in my time watching Sheffield United."

That's some compliment from a man who scored over 160 times for United, putting him third on their all-time list of goals.

Sharp turns 35 in February and needs 43 more to match Edwards' total of league goals for the Blades.

"Me being me, I hope no-one overtakes me," Edwards laughed.

"But if anyone had to, I would always want it to be Billy. I've watched him in all his spells and I like his play. He was a different type of player to me. He had more defensive responsibilities and holds the ball up.

"He's also a lovely character. When you meet players, you get to know whether players' hearts and souls are fully in Sheffield United, and it's very easy to detect when it isn't. But with Billy, it most definitely is.

"He's hungry to play more games and that's him through and through. He's everything that you'd want in a striker, and what Sheffield United fans absolutely love."

Like Edwards, Sharp's goals for the Blades have come across two spells. The United skipper came through the ranks at United, but left without much of a chance at Bramall Lane. He returned, for a big-money fee, a few years later but was often played out of position under Kevin Blackwell, and was sold to Doncaster Rovers. His third spell began in 2015 - and 92 goals in his 160 league starts since tells its own story.

"I've watched most of his games over the years for United and Billy has developed an overall game," Edwards continued.

"He was always a tough character but I don't recall him having the upper-body strength he has now. He doesn't ever get knocked off the ball.

"You've got to take into account his height, but he's strong and battles with centre halves. It never seems to be a problem for him. That side of his game has developed. He was always a natural finisher, left foot, right foot, headers, but he's developed as an all-round player.

"I've seen him score tap-ins and great headers, and I still remember his goal at Shrewsbury when he smashed it into the top corner from outside the box.

"In terms of strikers at this club, he's right up there for me. I can go back as far as the likes of Billy Dearden, who was loved, and then there were the likes of Brian Deane and Tony Agana. I used to think Tony was a lovely player, but they didn't sustain it for long enough to get to 100.

"Billy has got there, as well as captaining the club, taking penalties and conducting himself in such a good way. He's a Sheffield lad who banged goals in left, right and centre for Sheffield United. And I think he'll like to be remembered like that."

Speaking to Edwards about Sharp, it’s impossible not to wonder aloud about the thought of the two playing up front together in a United shirt.

"He'd have had to work a lot harder," Edwards smiles, "to do my share of the running."

Keith Edwards and Billy Sharp are both in the 100 league goals club for the Blades
Edwards was a prolific scorer for United across two spells
Keith Edwards, Sheffield United
Edwards is now an expert summariser on local radio - © BLADES SPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY