Wilder hails leadership qualities of Blades skipper Sharp

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has hailed the leadership qualities of his captain Billy Sharp.

Sharp has started the last three Premier League matches but until then had been used sparingly so far this campaign, making one other start and 12 substitute appearances.

The striker, who celebrated his 34th birthday last week, was pushed down the pecking order by the summer arrivals of Lys Mousset, Oli McBurnie and Callum Robinson, who is now on loan at West Brom, and has had to be patient to get his chance.

Sharp might have felt aggrieved at such treatment after scoring 87 league goals during the past four seasons to help propel the Blades from League One to the top flight. However, Wilder insists his attitude and temperament has been exemplary throughout.

“He hasn’t played as much as he would have liked. Off the pitch, he’s been a fantastic leader,” said the Blades boss.

“It’s easy when you’re playing and scoring, and Billy has scored so many goals for us, to carry out those leadership duties and when you’re not it’s a little bit more difficult.

“When you sign players, or keep people at the club, you’re looking to sign and keep good people as well. You want ambitious players. You want ones who can overcome disappointment and are selfless. You want ones who can face up to challenges.

“Billy had offers to leave in January but he wanted to stay. It’s been a different type of test, not that I want to put him through a test, but it is, and he showed his reaction. It speaks volumes.”

Sharp was on the score sheet on Sunday as the Blades came from behind to beat Bournemouth 2-1 at Bramall Lane.

The win moved them up to fifth in the Premier League table and to within two points of Chelsea, who occupy the final Champions League spot.

Although Wilder again refused to be drawn on the subject of qualifying for Europe, Cherries boss Eddie Howe insisted it would be a mistake not to include the Blades in the conversation.

“They’re in the mix, they have to be,” said Howe. “I always anticipated how difficult this game would be. They can pass the ball, they can go direct if they need to and they have different ways of scoring.

“Their biggest strength is that versatility and it will stand them in good stead.”

Howe’s team are just two points above the relegation zone after the defeat and still have Chelsea, Liverpool, Wolves, Manchester United, Tottenham, Leicester and Manchester City to play this season.

The 42-year-old said: “It’s a challenge we will relish. The attitude and endeavour is there and we still have a great chance with the quality we have in the squad.”