Tag Archives: Champions

B Sharp To End Saints Season on a High Note?

Saints have tonight confirmed the signing of Doncaster Rovers forward Billy Sharp for an undisclosed fee.

In what has been an ongoing saga for sometime, Saints have finally got their man, a move that shows that the club has in no way lost sight of their target of gaining promotion at the first attempt. The transfer window signings of Iago Falque, Tadanari Lee, the prodigal son style return of Jason Puncheon and now that of Sharp signal a clear attacking intent from an already fruitful side.

Yorkshireman Sharp has spent the majority of his career in his home region, starting at Rotherham United, before joining his beloved Sheffield United in 2004. Things didn’t work out at Bramall Lane and he spent his only previous spell outside Yorks with a loan move at Rushden & Diamonds.

It was with the now defunct  Northamptonshire club that his goalscoring exploits were first seen, netting nine times in his sixteen appearances.

Scunthorpe United were the club that took a chance on him in the summer of 2005 and they weren’t to be disappointed as Sharp hit twenty four in his first season. In November 2006 the Iron appointed a certain bespectacled Scouser by the name of Adkins and Scunthorpe never looked back. Sharp hit the net thirty three times in all competitions as he fired them to the summit of League One.

Iron fan Aiden McCartney from The Iron Supplement (check here for an interesting piece on Jack Cork) gave us his take on the striker:-

After much persistence by Brian Laws, a 19-year-old striker named Billy Sharp joined Scunthorpe from Sheffield United for £100,000 in August 2005.

Considered relatively anonymous then, that soon changed especially in a small part of Northern Lincolnshire.

He made himself an instant hero on his debut by scoring the winner against Nottingham Forest but that was just the sign of times to come as Sharp became one of the greatest signings in our history.

In his first season at Glanford Park, Sharp netted 23 times to ensure that the Iron comfortably survived in League One. Starring alongside young Irish forward Andy Keogh in a formidable partnership, he had soon established himself as one of the brightest young strikers in the game.

Despite a decent first campaign in League One, no-one quite foresaw the success on the horizon. However with Billy leading the line anything was possible as the next unforgettable year demonstrated.

After a slow start, the Iron exploded into life and a long unbeaten run took us straight to the summit with young Sharp scoring for fun.  

Laws departed for Sheffield Wednesday but Nigel Adkins stepped up from his previous role as physio. He was a more than capable replacement, improving the football and certainly bringing the best out of Sharp.

Although Billy’s partner in crime Keogh also left, he was soon replaced by out of favour Leeds forward Jermaine Beckford who proved to be the catalyst for the Iron’s success.  

He established a potent partnership with Billy as the Iron romped to the League One title, finishing six points clear of our closest rivals.  

Finishing the season on 32 goals, the highest in all four divisions, Sharp had demonstrated his obvious ability and a £2 million pound move back to Bramall Lane followed but not before leaving a legacy at Glanford Park. With 56 goals in just 94 games it is easy to see why.

Seeing Adkins and Sharp together again today brought back some fantastic memories for Scunthorpe fans. If Sharp and Adkins can repeat history then the promised land of the Premier League should appear just that bit closer for Saints fans.”

Sharp and now Saints Assistant Manager Andy Crosby celebrate promotion.

Sharp’s exploits made him hot property and when his boyhood club came calling it wasn’t a difficult decision to make, but again things didn’t work out with the Blades as he might have liked, and after finding himself out of favour Sharp went on loan to Doncaster Rovers. Sharp again found his feet outside Sheffield and was soon amongst the goals, hitting fifteen and sixteen goals in his first two seasons respectively.

Rovers fan Lewis Ward from Donny blog Vikingsbloggen spoke to us about Sharp:-

“Despite only having been at Doncaster Rovers for one full season, Billy Sharp is truly a Rovers’ legend. He is a fantastic player with one hell of a shot on him, it is hard to see Rovers score without him. He’s scored 25 goals since joining us permanently at the start of last season, where he has also had two long term injuries. Sharp came back to score against Middlesbrough for us in November, only days after the death of his son showing how much of a true professional he is. Billy Sharp is a player that should be a great addition to any team, and one we will be heartbroken to lose.

Doncaster Rovers supporters cannot praise Sharp enough, we wish him the very best in the future – he deserves it!”

Sharp has hit ten goals so far this season for Doncaster, an impressive feat in a side struggling at the foot of the Championship table, he captured the hearts of football fans everywhere when he took the field and scored for Rovers just days after the tragic death of his newborn son Luey and scored the only goal when Saints were defeated at the Keepmoat earlier in the season.

True Courage. Sharp's tribute to son Luey.

Welcome to Saints Billy Sharp.

Chris

Keeping Up With The Daggers….

 “Well, if they can keep with us, maybe.” – Nigel Adkins 23rd November 2010, having been asked if Saints and Brighton would be battling it out for promotion come the end of the season.

Brighton were eight points clear of Saints at the time.

“They play the same kind of football as Dagenham and Redbridge. The only difference is they’ve got (Rickie) Lambert. If you gave Dagenham and Redbridge (Lee) Barnard and Lambert they would be in the top six.”  – Gus Poyet speaking on the 23rd April 2011 after Saints 2-1 victory at the Withdean ended Brighton’s undefeated home run.

Southampton were being praised from all corners of the media and opposition fans for their attractive flowing football under Adkins.

Poyet v Adkins. Mouths of the South?

Last season something funny happened between the respective prides of Hampshire and Sussex. Almost as a sub-plot to the season, a rivalry (many fans will insist that it wasn’t a rivalry , but it was) developed between two of League One’s South coast clubs. Saints fans had never really cared about Brighton (and vice-versa I am sure), in fact I’ve always kind of liked them, but the events of last season brought about a new outlook on each other, that was fuelled mainly by the quoted comments above.

The great thing about rivalries is that they are the added to spice to any season, and last season’s campaign saw both teams without games against their real rivals. In fact both had been starved of regular derby games for a few years, so when a side reasonably local becomes your main promotion challenger things are likely to hot up. Add to that a sprinkling of former Brighton players now turning out for Saints and there was already enough reasons to see some full blooded encounters between the two.

The fanning of the flames though, didn’t come from the terraces, but from the clubs respective managers.

Nigel Adkins comments, following the 0-0 draw at St. Mary’s were unwise to say the least. Perhaps said tongue in cheek, as we all know Adkins likes a little joke with interviewers, but when you are eight points behind, it was enough ammunition to make the Saints boss a figure of hate for the Seagulls faithful. The disdain from the Saints fans point of view came from events on the pitch in that game. I was never a fan of Poyet as a player, and what I saw that night was a team very much influenced by their manager. Time wasting, play acting and imaginary card waving seemed to be the order of the day from the team in blue and white and incensed the Saints fans.

So the scene was set for the rest of the season.

The build up to the return match at the Withdean was almost comical, mainly because despite the months of ‘banter’ between the two sets of fans, both claimed to not really care about the other. The banners made especially for Nigel Adkins by the Brighton fans and the wild celebrations of the Saints fan after Jose Fonte’s winner would suggest nothing could be further from the truth. Another incident surrounding this match, that was blown out of proportion was the non-guard of honour. A contentious issue no doubt, but one that was spoken about far more because of the bad blood that had already built up between the clubs. Brighton were deserved champions, and under any other circumstances I am sure that Saints would have obliged, but I backed Adkins decision then, and I do now. Guards of honour are usually provided by teams with nothing left to play for in a season, and when the game means nothing to either side. That certainly wasn’t the case for a Saints team still chasing automatic promotion and the game clearly did mean a lot to both teams, managers and fans.

Adkins gets a warm reception from the Withdean Crowd. Image courtesy of Russell Masters.

If Saints fans had cringed in November when Adkins had made his vocal faux pas, it was time for the Brighton fans to put their fingers in their ears, as a clearly disappointed Poyet came out with his uninformed and factually incorrect rant after the game. A man who had also claimed that the game wasn’t important to him, but had withdrew the ball boys with twenty minutes to go when 1-0 up, Poyet’s South American passion had clearly got the better of him.

The comments may have been fair had they been aimed at Saints under Alan Pardew, who did like to go the direct route often, but it was now a weapon that was used only rarely by Adkins, albeit effectively to seal a last minute winner at the Withdean. The most insulting thing about it though was the disrespect to the Saints squad, dismissed as pawns for Lambert by Poyet. Many Saints fans (myself included) have since take glee from the reports of opposition fans in Brighton’s last few games, which suggest that since the signing of Billy Paynter, Poyet himself has mixed it up a bit with some punts to the big man, style is one thing, adapting to situations is another…..

Fonte celebrates the Withdean winner. We didn't care though honest.

So where does it leave us this season? As Saints and Brighton prepare to face off for the first time in the new campaign, things have very much died down. Brighton have found the step up slightly tougher than Saints, but neither has looked out of their depth. We both have our ‘real’ rivals to worry about now.

Saturday will have some needle though, there is no doubt about that. Poyet won the war last year, but didn’t win any battles and that will hurt him. Nigel Adkins and the Saints players will be fuelled by the Dagenham and Redbridge comments, and both sides will be looking at a possible reverse of the unbeaten home record situation.

It will be a good game, of that I am sure, and a little bit of rivalry and friendly banter never hurt anybody. We will rib Gus, and the Seagulls fans will rib Nigel, but I expect it will all be done with an undertone of begrudging respect for the fantastic jobs both men have done.

Both teams play nice football, and there are some great players in both sides. The additions to Brighton’s squad this season, particularly Mackail-Smith and Vicente are impressive and this could be Saints toughest home game so far. Let’s hope that the talking points all come from the pitch though, and not the post match interviews.

I for one can say honestly, that I have enjoyed the online battle of wills with the Brighton fans, and found it to be humour filled and fun, and long may it continue. Can you keep up?

Spare a thought for poor old Dagenham & Redbridge though. Staring non-league football in the face, but  for a Rickie Lambert they would be on the brink of the Premier League….

Chris