Yesterday afternoon, Leeds United officially announced the signing of former Southampton striker Billy Sharp.
The 28 year-old played a crucial role in the Saints’ promotion to the Premier League in 2012, but he struggled for game-time in the top flight, spending the last two years on loan to Nottingham Forest, Reading and former club Doncaster.
Sharp’s goalscoring credentials at Championship level are undoubted however, and following the departure of talismanic forward Ross McCormack, Whites fans will hope the former Sheffield United youngster can replace the Scot’s netting prowess.
So in honour of his move to Elland Road, here’s FIVE things Billy Sharp will bring to Leeds United.
It goes without saying that Leeds have saved Billy Sharp from his Southampton nightmare to fill the goalscoring void left behind by the £11million departure of Ross McCormack to Fulham.
Indeed, the 28 year-old may have struggled to impact in the Premier League but his quality at second-tier level has never been in doubt.
He’s netted 65 times in his last 158 Championship appearances throughout spells with Doncaster, Nottingham Forest, Reading and Southampton, boasting a strike-rate of one-in-two during his two-and-a-half campaigns at the Keepmoat stadium.
If David Hockaday can set up a steady supply, the former Sheffield United youngster will undoubtedly find the net. Here’s a look at all of the striker’s goals for Donny:
But in truth, the former Southampton and Doncaster striker is capable of putting away a variety of chances. As viewable below, he can finish with both feet and exceptionally lethal in the penalty area:
But he’s good with his head too for a 5 foot 9 striker, take this goal against former club Scunthorpe for example:
Or this effort against another former club, Doncaster:
And I’m sure Leeds fans remember this goal, demonstrating Sharp’s ability to maintain concentration amid a 28-pass move:
He’s also scored a few worldies from long-range too, but we’ll get onto that later.
Far from simply being a striker who racks up a decent tally each season purely for the sake of statistical enjoyment, Sharp scores goals that matter. Resultantly, he has the potential to be a real match-winner for Leeds.
Take his short stay at Southampton for example. The Saints are now flying high in the Premier League with many of their (now former) stars representing England at the World Cup.
But they wouldn’t have got there without the 28 year-old going on a run of nine-in-fifteen at the end of the 2011/12 campaign, netting vital braces against Peterborough, Portsmouth and Doncaster to earn Southampton a vital seven points effectively single-handedly.
Here’s a look at his nine-goal run for the south coast outfit:
It’s no secret that Billy Sharp isn’t the most athletic striker. He measures in at 5 foot 9, isn’t quick or particularly powerful, and that is the underlying reason why he’s never met the standards of the Premier League.
But for what the 28 year-old lacks in natural physicality, he makes up for in intelligent movement and determination. To directly quote Lincoln City goalkeeper David Preece, who has played against Sharp before, “It’s his movement that gives defenders their biggest headache, particularly inside the penalty area. As soon as the defender focuses his attention away from him and on to the ball coming in, Sharp makes his move and pulls away from his marker to give him that precious yard or two of space.
“Outside of the box, Sharp will willingly use his bullish physique to hold up balls played into him or offer himself to a more positive pass down the outside of central defenders by using the same movement of pulling away diagonal from them for the ball slipped in behind.”
Leeds have height and strength in Matt Smith and Steve Morison, experience in Noel Hunt and pace in Dominic Poleon, but none come close to matching Sharp’s immense positional awareness and persistent movement in the final third.
But Billy Sharp bucks that trend, not least because he has the name of a footballer from the 1920s. Furthermore, he’s a player determined to make up for his aforementioned lack of physicality with sheer effort, desire, determination and technical skill, which in the current climate is exceptionally refreshing.
Premier League fans may never truly appreciate him, but all loyal followers of the Championship certainly do.
And that in part is due to perhaps one of the most touching moments ever witnessed in second tier football. Days after the death of his two year-old son, the striker produced this sensational strike and touching tribute celebration:
The 28 year-old now runs the Luey Jacob Sharp Foundation, a charity to raise money for research into gastroschisis.
For his passion, his bravery, and his dedication, in Billy Sharp, Leeds truly have one of the rare few genuine cult heroes in the English game today.