Sheffield United striker Billy Sharp has said his main task this summer will be to impress new manager Slavisa Jokanovic, with the 35-year-old revealing to the Star that he is nearly 100% fit.
The experienced forward scored three goals in 15 Premier League appearances last term – but spent the latter stages of last season out with a hip issue after suffering the injury in training and had to be put under the knife to recover.
However, Sharp is now well on his way to recovery and has recently returned to pre-season training according to the same Sheffield Star report, putting him in content to play in their opening league fixture against Birmingham City as the new boss arrives in South Yorkshire this week.
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Speaking to the outlet at his late son’s cup competition about the injury, the 35-year-old Blades captain said: “I did something in training and I knew it was pretty bad.
“I had some scan results which seemed to show it wasn’t as bad as we thought but I found out a few weeks down the line that it was worse and I needed surgery.
“It’s been frustrating. Last season was disappointing and I’m gutted. I haven’t really said much about it but everyone knows it hurt me.”
He will now compete for a starting spot with Oli McBurnie, Lys Mousset, David McGoldrick and Rhian Brewster, with Oliver Burke as another option depending on the system the Serbian manager adopts.
Because of this, Sharp will need to be fully fit and on top form in pre-season if he is to win his place in the first 11 back but with the uncertain futures of McBurnie and Mousset, this task could soon become slightly easier.
The captain is approaching this season with great optimism regardless of this current competition – and has one clear aim to meet when it comes to the new boss.
He continued: “I’ve got a year left, I’m still wanting to contribute and I’m nearly back 100 per cent fit.
“I’m captain of the club, but it’s hard to influence as much when you’re not playing. Especially when sometimes I was only turning up half an hour before the game because I’ve been in rehab.
“So it was frustrating and disappointing but it’s happened now. It’s about impressing the manager. And I’ve got some important goals to score to try and help get us promoted.”
With Sheffield United suffering so badly last season with their awful results and a lack of goalscoring potency, Jokanovic may target a striker this summer if he can get one or two off the books first. And his formation may also determine how much playing time the experienced forward gets.
If only one striker starts up top, the likes of McBurnie and Brewster may potentially start ahead of Sharp – but the Serbian will also be mindful of the captain’s experience in the Championship and the benefits he brings to the team when he’s on the pitch.
Focusing more on the present day though, the remainder of Sharp’s career at Bramall Lane could depend on this pre-season and now he’s nearly fully fit, this is his opportunity to show that the hip surgery hasn’t adversely affected him. The next couple of months will be crucial for his playing career.