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.
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.”
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.”