Billy Sharp hasn’t fared too badly for a “fat lad from Sheffield” and after marking his return to the Premier League with boyhood club Sheffield United via an 88th-minute equaliser in the opening weekend of the 2019/20 season, there’s proof that there’s plenty of life left in the veteran forward.
The 33-year-old has had a stellar 2019 and began the year in record-breaking fashion; in January he scored his 220th career goal, overtaking Rickie Lambert as the 21st century’s leading English goalscorer in professional football, and in February he notched his 100th goal in a Blades shirt, scoring a brace in a 3-3 draw with Aston Villa.
By April, Sheffield United had returned to the Premier League for the first time in 12 years, bolstered by the 23 league goals scored by Sharp which saw him named in the Championship Team of the Year.
This season will be the captain’s first proper tilt in the top-flight, having made just two appearances when he last arrived at this level with Southampton in the 2012/13 season, but the striker has enjoyed a goal-laden career in the lower tiers.
During stints in the Championship, League One and League Two, he has totalled a whopping 227 goals spread across seven clubs and four promotions.
It’s not been an easy road for the Blades talisman and an unthinkable tragedy struck him in 2011 when his two-day-old son Luey Jacob sadly passed away. There’d have been no shame if Sharp - then at Doncaster Rovers - had decided to take a break from football, but three days later he returned to the side to score a volley against Middlesbrough, unveiling an undershirt that read: “That’s for you son.”
Five days later, his name was on the scoresheet again, this time in a 3-2 win over Ipswich Town. The goal brought the Portman Road faithful to their feet to applaud the opposition striker and chanted Luey’s name, a gesture that clearly meant a lot to the grief-stricken Sharp.
Having now joined an exclusive group of players to have scored in all four of England’s top four divisions, Sharp must now turn his attention to ensuring The Blades’ return to the Promised Land isn’t a fleeting visit. Immediately getting off the mark, he’s more than capable of firing the Yorkshire outfit to safety this season.
After that opening weekend, few will be doubting that Sharp has a role to play at Bramall Lane.