Sheffield United: Skipper backs his team mates to shine again next season as midfielder’s hopes of a late call-up appear to be dashed

Billy Sharp is backing his team mates to shine again next season: Simon Bellis/Sportimage
Billy Sharp is backing his team mates to shine again next season: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Billy Sharp, the Sheffield United captain, is convinced his team mates will prove last season’s push for the Championship play-offs was no fluke when they return to action in August.

Sharp, who revealed fellow centre-forward Leon Clarke was “disappointed” not to reach 20 goals as Chris Wilder’s side chased a top six finish, admitted several areas of Bramall Lane’s squad would benefit from reinforcements.

Leon Clarke scored 19 goals last season: Picture by Simon Bellis.

Leon Clarke scored 19 goals last season: Picture by Simon Bellis.

But he insisted only minor adjustments are required to ensure United can mount another challenge next term.

“It’s worked really well the last two seasons,” Sharp said. “If we can tweak a few things, then why can’t we be stronger next season? Personally, I don’t see any reason why not.

“The lads we’ve got here will benefit from the experience. All of us will, no matter what. So there’s no reason why, if we have the same approach and mentality, why that can’t happen.”

Sharp, aged 32, was United’s leading scorer during the 2016/17 League One title-winning campaign. He was on target 14 times following the club’s return to the second tier; five fewer than Clarke who averaged a goal every 2.05 outings.

“Leon was disappointed not to get to 20,” Sharp continued. “But he can hold his head high, definitely. He’s been our leading goalscorer this season and all credit to him for that. I know he’ll have wanted to get to that figure but he can be proud and pleased of what he’s done.”

Having climbed to the top of the table in November, United eventually finished 10th; only six points behind Derby County who claimed the fourth and final play-off berth.

“We’ve been dominating games and we’ve not always put the ball in the back of the net, myself included,” Sharp said. “It was frustrating at times because we’ve come off smiling (at the interval) thinking ‘that was the perfect half’ and then things have changed in the second. We can all improve and get better and I’m sure we will.”

Meanwhile, John Fleck’s hopes of a late call-up for Scotland’s forthcoming friendlies against Peru and Mexico appear to have been dashed despite Stuart Armstrong’s withdrawal from Alex McLeish’s squad. The Celtic midfielder’s decision had prompted speculation Fleck could be drafted-in as a replacement.

But SFA chiefs appeared to decide last night that any late adjustments to the travelling party were impossible, meaning McLeish will depart for Lima with only 21 players at his disposal.