Lads deserve Premier League chance, says Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp

BILLY SHARP, the Sheffield United captain, insists a squad with only minimal Premier League experience is ready to take its belated chance at the top level.

Sheffield United's Billy Sharp with his son after the final whistle signalled victory over Ipswich Town and promotion to the Premier League (Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire).

The Blades clinched automatic promotion with a game to spare to end a 12-year absence from the elite.

Bookmakers have already tipped Chris Wilder’s men for the drop next season, pointing to how only Chris Basham and Enda Stevens among the players who have taken United up have previously started a Premier League game.

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Basham has seven starts to his name with Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool, while Stevens made half a dozen starts for Aston Villa.

The only other members of the Blades squad to appear in the top flight are Sharp and loanee Gary Madine, who have managed just 18 and 32 minutes respectively from the bench.

“Everyone wants to play at the highest level and we are no different,” said top scorer Sharp when speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post. “Personally I can’t wait to play in the Premier League.

“I did not get that chance with Southampton after winning promotion (in 2012). But I am more happy for the rest of the lads, they deserve this. This is a real team. That is why we have done so well.

“There is a real togetherness, we are all incredibly tight. Everyone has worked hard for each other. I am proud of every single one of these boys.

“Not many of us have played in the Premier League, that is a fact, but if the past few years have proved anything it is that we love a challenge.

“That is what we are all about, and what bigger challenge than establishing Sheffield United in the Premier League.”

United’s promotion has capped another remarkable season for 33-year-old Sharp.

The former Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers striker has netted 23 times in the Championship, a tally only bettered by Norwich City’s Teemu Pukki, Neal Maupay of Brentford and Aston Villa’s on-loan Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham

All three, however, have made more starts than the 33 managed by Sharp, who has also come off the bench six times. United’s captain has also had the satisfaction of becoming the Football League’s leading goalscorer this century after taking his tally to 227, and last month he was named in the PFA Championship team of the year.

“Promotion has started to sink in now,” he added.

“It was an unbelievable weekend. Things really could not have gone any better.

“The last few weeks had seen us and then Leeds go second. It seemed to change every single week at one stage. But then Easter was huge for us and we knew going into the Ipswich game that we were almost there.”

The Blades travel to Stoke City on Sunday with the pressure off.

Wilder still wants the title, which United can win with three points at the 365 Stadium if leaders Norwich City lose at Aston Villa.

But a bigger battle looms in the High Court later this month, as co-owners Kevin McCabe and HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Mosaad Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud resume their battle for control.

Both have 50 per cent stakes in United’s parent company Blades Leisure Limited and a hearing is set to open next Tuesday.

McCabe last night reaffirmed his intention to sell if he triumphs in the legal action.

“I want to be a supporter next season,” said the 71-year-old businessman, involved at United for two decades.

“I want to be able to pass on the baton to new owners, to shout and yell and not be discreet in the directors’ box.

“The Premier League has changed since we were last there. I understand it but it’s for younger people.”

All parties are hoping for a swift resolution but judgement may yet be deferred until the autumn.

This, though, should not impact on Wilder’s recruitment plans for the summer.

McCabe added: “There has been common sense between Prince Abdullah and myself to ensure the club is run properly in spite of our differences.”

Sharp, meanwhile, believes United’s success can all be put down to manager – and fellow lifelong Blades – Wilder.

In three seasons at the helm the 51-year-old has clinched two promotions and is now looking forward to his own Premier League bow.

“He has to go down as the best manager in the club’s history,” added Sharp, in his third spell at Bramall Lane. “I am sure the fans will agree with me when I say that.

“What he has achieved here in such a short space of time is huge. He came in to get us out of League One. He made a lot of changes and then did the same after promotion to help us improve.

“Everything he did has paid off and here we are, three years after he came in, a Premier League club again. Now we are all looking forward to getting that chance.”

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