I’m not sure I ever expected it to go this quick, but we really have reached the end of the ‘Five Year Plan’. It hardly seems fathomable that the club that lined up on the 8th August 2009 to play out a 1-1 draw with Millwall in League One, would mark the end of the ‘plan’ with a 1-1 draw with Champions of England Manchester United in the same stadium.
What a five years it’s been. Considering the original plan was to get Southampton into the Premier League, the fact that that has clearly been achieved (a year early), a trophy has been won along the way and the final season saw us break into the top eight, I would say we can consider it a complete success.
Three managers, Two promotions, One trophy and Seventy Seven Players! Can the next five years really live up to it?
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.
“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’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.
“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.