What if I were to tell you that there was a current player on Leeds United who has scored 75 goals throughout his career in the Championship? The die-hard fans of the club would probably know in the blink of an eye who this refers to, but odds are a great deal of people would struggle to come up with a name.
Now, what if I were to go on to explain that this player has only played 659 minutes of football so far this season? What about that he has only started seven times and come off the bench another seven? While these are all prodding questions, most reading this article know by this point who I am referring to.
Billy Sharp, a former Doncaster Rovers star, is by and large the most tenured front-runner in terms of English footballing experience that the Whites have in their arsenal. He has played on teams that got promoted to the top flight and four times has tallied in the double-digits for a Championship level team. This past summer the 28-year-old even left Southampton, and consequently the Premiership, to come ply his trade at Elland Road.
Despite all of this, his impact at the club has been marginal and hardly led up to his semi-illustrious past. His brightest moment was when he tallied the game-winner in the 1-0 home opener against Middlesborough, which can be seen below. On the play he shows magnificent instincts to follow up a long range shot and power home the ensuing rebound.
Another time he showed superbly was when he was handed the start this past weekend against Nottingham Forest. Throughout the match he did relatively well and even was able to knock home the equalizer from the penalty spot, which can also be seen after the jump.
In spite of these shining moments, he has largely fallen out of favor and been unable to fill the gaping hole up front left by Ross McCormack’s transfer. Part of this is likely because of the thriving relationship and understanding that Mirco Antenucci and Souleymane Doukara share. The two have emerged as consistent and viable options up top, so Sharp has been forced to bide his time on the bench and try to make the most of his limited minutes.
Like many other players though, he has been plagued by the myriad of managers that Leeds has gone through in the season’s early-goings. Under Dave Hockaday and Neil Redfearn’s first spell as manager the Englishman received his fair share of minutes. However, when Darko Milanic took over the well ran dry. The number eight rarely saw the field and consequently fell out of the limelight. During Redfearn’s current spell as manager he has received spot time on the pitch, which altogether doesn’t reflect the expectations that accompanied his signing.
Another possible reason for Sharp’s exclusion is that he has a somewhat limited skill-set. In every sense of the word he is a poacher who thrives off service and lacks some cut-throat skills that would give him the edge over Antenucci or Doukara. He isn’t a bad player by any means, but he sometimes is missing the edge or conviction that would place him above the in form Italian or Senegalese.
Even though all of these musings suggests Sharp is subject to a spot on the bench, he could very well start to even more minutes come his way in the next few weeks. Leeds will begin a busy stretch of games as January nears and a proven Championship goalscorer like Sharp can be extremely useful. After all, Doukara and Antenucci are bound to have a dip in form and someone will need to pick up the possible slack.
During this physically grueling portion of the campaign Leeds will at some point have to rely on Sharp’s wherewithal. He has played in 229 Championship games to date and the youngsters and summer singings simply don’t have this kind of background.
Lastly, the former Southampton man is a poacher who inherently can be a streaky goal scorer. While this can be problematic, he is just as likely to get hot and start banging in the goals at an impressive rate for the Whites. His recent 31 minute substitute appearance against Fulham and start against Nottingham Forest were full of bright moments and reveal that he has the potential to live up to his past and become a key man for Leeds.
To what extent Redfearn employs him though will only be seen as the season progresses.