Billy Sharp leads Sheffield United into the Yorkshire derby with Hull City tomorrow believing he is “playing the best part of my career”.
Eight goals in 11 appearances – including a brace in Wednesday night’s impressive 2-0 win at Blackburn Rovers – is proof the Blades’ captain is delivering in front of goal.
But the 32-year-old’s overall fitness and unselfish play for his boyhood team has not gone unnoticed in United’s climb to third place in the Championship.
Goals have almost been guaranteed in a career that has gone full circle after starting out at Bramall Lane – taking in the likes of Scunthorpe United, Doncaster Rovers, Southampton, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United – but he also leads by example when it comes to the strong team ethic demanded by Blades’ manager Chris Wilder.
“I think I’m playing the best part of my career now,” Sharp said. “I feel as good as I’ve ever done, seriously.
“In the last few years I’ve added some other parts to my game and I’m delighted to be scoring for Sheffield United because that’s what I want to do.
“Like the gaffer says, I’ve had to do other things and I’m loving it to be honest. When you’re younger sometimes things go in one ear and out the other.
“But I’m getting on a bit now and I’ve had to sacrifice a few things to get in the right shape. But that’s okay because, to be honest, I’d rather keep my money in my pocket and be out there for United.”
Sharp started the season on the bench as Leon Clarke and David McGoldrick were the preferred pairing for the opening two games against Swansea City and Middlesbrough.
But even Wilder has been impressed by Sharp’s on-field work after victory at Blackburn. The first goal was a poacher’s strike and his second was a far-post header.
Wilder said: “He (Sharp) is getting himself in the goals, his general all-round play is good, his link-up play is the best it’s been at this football club and he does what he does best, which is score. It’s great movement and it’s fantastic for the skipper to score two.”
Former Blades manager Nigel Adkins will return to Bramall Lane for the second time this season, the Tigers having won the EFL Cup visit in August.