Sheffield United: Does Billy Sharp get the credit his goals deserve?Â
He averages one every 2.3 matches since turning professional and has appeared in all four divisions of English football.
So it seems bizarre that Billy Sharp, whose goals have powered Sheffield United's rise to the top of theÂ Championship, is not one of the competition's most cherished centre-forwards.
Captain, supporter and regular scorer, the 32-year-old's exploits for his hometown club could have beenÂ torn straight from the pages of a Boy's Own annual. Yet, beyond the confines of Bramall Lane, moreÂ expensively acquired names continue to dominate the news agenda. Probably by virtue of their eye- watering fees.
"Whether he gets recognition or not, I think his stats are there for everyone to see," United manager ChrisÂ Wilder said ahead of Saturday's visit to Nottingham Forest. "He's played at this level for a number ofÂ years, delivered goals, and keeps doing it so I don't think he'll be bothered if it gets flagged up or not. TheÂ only thing that matters is what we think of him here."
Although neither Wilder nor Sharp are bothered about plaudits, indeed they would probably prefer toÂ remain under the radar, the lack of national recognition the latter receives reflects poorly on the game.Â Sharp has hit the target 11 times in 14 appearances so far this term. Yet, because he cost upwards ofÂ Â£6m, Forest's Lewis Grabban will generate more column inches, more attention and more headlines duringÂ the build-up to United's meeting with Aitor Karanka's seventh-placed side.
"I'm not that bothered if we get flagged up for doing this or that," Wilder continued. "It's not something weÂ crave. In fact, I'd rather not have the attention. "Mind you, and I know I'm contradicting myself here, we want to win games of football and Billy wants toÂ score goals. With that comes the spotlight, or so you would have thought."
Sharp's contribution to their performances under Wilder makes it even more mystifying that, after progressing through the ranks of the Steelphalt Academy, he was twice sold by United before being brought back for a third spell in 2015. Forest were also guilty of failing to appreciate Sharp's talents when, after signing him on loan from Southampton, they let him return to St Mary's six seasons ago. Despite playing under three different managers in the space of nine months, Sharp finished the campaign as their leading scorer.
"The only thing I'm bothered about is what Billy is doing now," Wilder said. "That's all that matters, the fact that he's doing the business and that he is here."