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The Footballer’s Footballer

Last Saturday Billy Sharp’s world must have felt like it was crumbling into pieces. The Sheffield born striker and his girlfriend Jade Fair should have been celebrating the birth of their child Luey Jacob Sharp, but instead experienced the moment any mother or father dreads, the death of their child.

Sharp, understandably in shock and disbelief, was excused from training and was widely expected to not be in contention for Tuesday’s Npower Championship match against Middlesbrough with the tragedy still rife in his mind.

However in a remarkable act of courage and bravery Sharp contacted his manager Dean Saunders on Monday evening and insisted he was available for selection, stating he wanted to play ‘to score for his son’.

Saunders couldn’t refuse and Sharp was named captain for the evening lining up alongside debutant El-Hadji Diouf on Tuesday night as Doncaster looked to secure three vital points that would hopefully lift them off the foot of the table.

Sadly for Sharp and Doncaster this would not be the case as Boro ran out 3-1 winners, but it would be Sharp and not Middlesbrough who would take all the headlines after the match.

Sharp had done what he had set out to do. He had scored for his son. It wasn’t any ordinary goal either. After a flick on from Diouf, he looked to be too wide of the goal to even attempt a shot, but that didn’t stop him unleashing a exquisite volley over keeper Jason Steele in the 14th minute.

Sharp celebrated with his team-mates, pulling up his top to reveal the message ‘That’s for you son’, touching the hearts of the football fraternity.  As Tony Mowbray said in the post-match conference it was ‘the goal from heaven’ and was a fitting moment for the whole occasion.

Sharp understandably touched by all the messages of support he had received from his family, his club and fans across the world, used social networking site twitter to emphasise how grateful himself and Jade were for all the kind words. Some of his tweets included: “My goal tonight was the most important goal of my career dedicated to my brave boy Luey Jacob Sharp. I love u son sleep tight.”

“To captain the side tonight was an honour and a pleasure. I was crying [during] the minute’s applause. Thanks to both sets of fans.”

“My goal had to be something special tonight for my special boy. I’m so proud of him, and his mum.”

Common sense prevailed as referee Darren Deadman opted against booking Sharp, something he should be given high praise for.

Fellow professionals should look at Sharp, in particular a Mr Carlos Tevez, and admire his bravery, commitment and pride. He wanted to play not only for his club and his family, but for the Doncaster fans who follow him week in week out, and they would have been delighted to see their star striker in the starting line-up on Tuesday evening.

Tevez should learn a lesson from this. After allegedly refusing to warm up for Manchester City against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, in the press there was an unprecedented amount of coverage surrounding this issue, including the high profile rift between Tevez and his manager Roberto Mancini.

The whole issue was just pathetic. You’re getting paid£250,000 a week but it just isn’t enough is it? What Tevez despised more than anything was the fact he was no longer the focal point of the team. The Manchester City team no longer need him. They are good enough without him.

It really is sad when topics like this are being so heavily discussed in the press when you’ve got heroic figures such as Sharp, putting his heart and soul into the game, and still doing so after such a horrendous tragedy.

To play just three days after such personal heartbreak is just unbelievable. A lesser footballer would have made himself unavailable for selection. All this shows us is exactly what type of person Sharp is. The English game should be extremely proud of him indeed. How proud Little Luey must be up there thinking of his dad.

Sean Gallagher

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