Pressure now off Sheffield United after finally ending long wait for victory – Billy Sharp
It was somewhat fitting that the boyhood Blade, who has savoured many memorable episodes for his hometown club, was bestowed with the honour of ending the record worst ever start to a league season in England’s four divisions by providing the decisive moment in the cherished 1-0 success.
At the place he knows so well in Bramall Lane, Sharp, 34, took responsibility and netted a penalty 20 minutes from time as the hosts claimed their first league victory of 2020-21 at the 18th time of asking.
All told, it was United’s first league win in 186 days since last July, with Sharp afforded a symbolic moment in his long career after netting his hundredth league goal for the club he adores like no other.
Collectively, it has ensured that all those embarrassing jibes about United potentially going through an entire Premier League campaign without a victory have been put to bed.
In the process, the events of Tuesday evening will also provide a huge psychological lift for the club’s players going forward.
The Blades now head into daunting fixtures against Tottenham and both Manchester clubs, but they now go into the fixtures in renewed heart.
Sharp said: “The pressure is off us. Everyone wrote us off and now we just need to dig deep for each other and stick together.
“The gaffer has said it: ‘Just go out and play, everyone has written you off.’ Now we need to go out and have a little bit more belief about each other.”
On his milestone strike, Sharp, whose maiden league goal in three spells with the Blades came in March, 2008, added: “Personally, it is a dream come true. One hundred league goals for Sheffield United, it is amazing.
“I wish the fans were in the stadium, but that was for them. I am delighted to score the goal and to help contribute to get three points is something I was very pleased to be able to do.
“To get the first win in the league is a huge relief and hopefully the boys can take a lot from that. I am delighted for them because they have worked so hard this season and it has not quite gone for us. With a little bit of luck, we took our chance and finally got the three points.”
Meanwhile, Blades chief Chris Wilder has called for his players to be spared from criticism after their celebrations following Sharp’s vital penalty and at the final whistle of a historic evening.
There has been criticism of the scenes at Bramall Lane with players across the country having been reminded of the need to maintain social distancing as possible during games and when celebrating goals as Covid-19 cases soar nationwide.
A letter from top-flight chief Richard Masters has advised clubs that “handshakes, high fives and hugs must be avoided” following “concerning scenes” at the weekend during several FA Cup ties, including Crawley’s victory over Leeds United.
Calling for perspective, Wilder said: “They are team-mates and I just don’t see any way that they can just walk back to the half-way line and show no emotion after what they have been through for a long, long period.”
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