SORRY LEO, ONLY BLADES KITS NOW!

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By Chris Dunlavy

LEEDS, Read­ing, Southamp­ton and Not­ting­ham For­est – lit­tle Leo Sharp has got a range of kits to ri­val Sports Di­rect.

And no won­der – the poor lad’s head must have been in a spin try­ing to fol­low dad Billy’s whistlestop tour of the Cham­pi­onship.

Since win­ning pro­mo­tion to the Premier League with Southamp­ton in 2012, the striker has bounced from pil­lar to post, with frus­trat­ing loan spells at For­est and Read­ing fol­lowed by a year in the El­land Road mad­house.

Ob­sessed

But af­ter join­ing boy­hood club Sheffield United for the third time, Sharp is hop­ing two-year-old Leo’s new Blades kit will be his last – and best!

“He’s ob­sessed with football kits,” laughs Sharp, whose wife Jade is ex­pect­ing another boy in De­cem­ber. “Ev­ery­day he wakes up, it’s, ‘Where’s my kit, I want to put my kit on’.

“He can’t get enough of them – which is lucky be­cause he’s been able to col­lect quite a few with my name on these past two years!

“He’s got a Leeds kit, Southamp­ton, For­est. He’s had them all. But with me around, he was al­ways go­ing to grow up a Blade. Now he’s got the strip to match and hope­fully it’ll be the only one he needs be­cause I want to set­tle down here.”

Sharp – scorer of 147 goals in 362 games for the likes of Don­caster and Scun­thorpe – de­scribes the last three sea­sons wearily.

“At For­est, I’d scored 11 goals by Christ­mas,” he says. “Then they sacked Sean O’Driscoll, changed the man­ager twice and I didn’t get a game. Then I went to Read­ing and got in­jured.

“Leeds was re­ally en­joy­able and the fans were bril­liant. I got off to a good start, scored on my de­but. I think they wanted me to play ev­ery week be­cause they knew I’d give my all.

“But, like For­est, they went through three man­agers in a year. That’s another owner who hits prob­lems be­cause he wants to pick the side. I only made 13 starts and by the end I just didn’t feel wanted.

“It got to the point where I couldn’t re­mem­ber the last time I played six games on the trot. That’s why I couldn’t care less about drop­ping into League One. I just want to play again.”

Twice a United player, Sharp was re­leased as a teenager in 2005, then re­turned af­ter two pro­lific sea­sons with Scun­thorpe only to be played out of po­si­tion by Kevin Black­well.

Yet if fi­nally do­ing the busi­ness for his home­town club was the big­gest pull, gaffer Nigel Ad­kins came a close sec­ond. This is the fourth time the for­mer Southamp­ton boss has signed Sharp.

“Hav­ing that trust is key,” he adds. “A striker has the hard­est job on the pitch and go­ing out there know­ing that the man­ager has your back makes a mas­sive dif­fer­ence.

“Peo­ple al­ways say ‘Why did he loan you from Southamp­ton to For­est?’ But I know that de­ci­sion was out of his hands be­cause he told me so. I don’t hold it against him and he showed his trust in me by sign­ing me twice more.”

Pace

Once, Sharp was the bright young thing at Bra­mall Lane. Now that man­tle has passed to 19-year-old Che Adams, the striker who an­nounced him­self with two goals against Spurs last year.

“Che’s re­ally caught my eye,” added Sharp. “He’s got a lot of pace, he’s strong. If he can de­velop over the next few years, he’ll def­i­nitely play at a higher level. He just needs games to build his con­fi­dence and if he’s clever enough, he’ll find a way to keep im­prov­ing.

“It’s weird be­cause it seems like two min­utes since I was in his po­si­tion. I said ‘You’ve got a great chance – make sure you take it be­cause your ca­reer goes by so fast’. He couldn’t be­lieve I was 29 but I told him it soon goes by.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

SHARP-SHOOTER: Billy Sharp scores for Sheffield United in one of his ear­lier spells with the club and, inset, play­ing for Leeds, Read­ing and Southamp­ton

FAVOURITE: Leo in Blades colours

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