Both personally and professionally, it has been a season that Billy Sharp will never forget. From the unimaginable tragedy of the loss of his two day old son Luey, to the lunacy of Doncaster Rovers’ season with agent Willie McKay’s bizarre revolving door transfer policy or Southampton’s glorious promotion to the Premier League, Sharp has experienced it all one way or another this term.
Of course it is the deeply personal loss which will stick with the striker more than anything else, but Sharp revealed himself to be a man of huge dignity in the aftermath of his son’s death.
His poignant celebration after his goal against Middlesbrough, just three days after Luey’s death will be something that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it, and it went someway to restoring the public perception of the typical footballer.
After striking a sweet dipping volley from the edge of the box with his left foot, Sharp broke down, dropping to his knees and revealing a t-shirt that read:
‘That’s for you son.’
Sharp later took to Twitter to continue his dedication.
‘My goal tonight was the most important of my career dedicated to my brave boy Luey Jacob Sharp. I love you son.’
It is Sharp’s personal tragedy that one would not like to dwell on too much, but as a professional footballer, his campaign has been a happy one – he will be a Premier League footballer next season.
Sharp’s £1.8m January move from Doncaster to Southampton catapulted him from one end of the Championship to the other and it was a move that was surely welcomed after being part of a Donny side that accumulated a bunch of mercenaries on loan, who played merely to showcase themselves to other teams, with scant regard for Doncaster, or the sanctity of team sport.
Super-agent Willie McKay oversaw every single transfer for the club and readily admitted he was only at Doncaster for the money as he explained his business model for Donny – a model that was sat uneasily alongside the very core values at the heart of the game.
‘In every squad there are two or three good players who aren’t getting a game for whatever reason. We will take them to Doncaster, put them in the shop window and sell them on with sell-on fees.
‘I’m doing this to prove it can be done and I’ve been honest enough to admit I’m only here for the money.’
In reality, it couldn’t be done and Doncaster were relegated, bottom of the Championship.
Sharp escaped from the doomed experiment and when asked to sum up the season immediately after promotion, he spoke of being ‘frustrated, sad, happy’, there were no prizes for guessing where and when he experienced each emotion.
Even in his finest hour, celebrating promotion, Sharp – who scored nine in 15 appearances for the Saints – was still quick to highlight the contribution of every one else.
‘It’s not just me who needed a happy ending to the season because there are 35 other players and staff in that dressing room who deserve it as much as me.’
Billy Sharp is a man of true class, we wish him well in the 2012/2013 Premier League season.
By Paul Gorst