Billy Sharp pushed himself through the pain barrier in an attempt to help Sheffield United negotiate the congested festive fixture schedule, Nigel Adkins has revealed.
Sharp, the League One club’s leading goalscorer, was withdrawn midway through the second-half of Tuesday’s game against Blackpool due to injury but, Adkins acknowledged, the problem can be traced back long before his team’s appearance at Bloomfield Road.
“Billy has been having pain-killing injections in his foot for a few weeks now,” the United manager explained. “It’s an issue he’s had for a while but he’s still volunteered to play every single time.
“In that match, though, I think you could see his race was run. So the best thing was to take him off rather than risk anything serious happening.”
Confirmation that Sharp has been hampered by fitness issues of late makes his recent exploits - the 29-year-old has scored seven goals in eight league games - even more impressive. Given the condition of Blackpool’s playing surface - “the goalmouths, as you saw, were pretty horrendous” - it also explains why Adkins was reticent to let him finish the game. United have hit the target 13 times in their last nine outings with Sharp, who will now undergo a period of rehabilitation ahead of next weekend’s visit by Wigan Athletic, claiming 54 per cent of those.
Midfielder Chris Basham and strike-partner Matthew Done, who also missed the trip to Lancashire will join him in the treatment room as Adkins looks to use the blank weekend on their calendar to rejuvenate his squad.
“They should all be ready to go (for Wigan),” he said, “Matty has put in a big effort of late and he wasn’t quite right. So, because of the conditions, we decided not to take the chance of losing him for five or six weeks. He’s had a little trouble with his hamstrings before. I’m sure he’ll be putting himself forward for the Wigan match though. That’s the character of the group we’ve got.”