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Billy Sharp missing the fans as Sheffield United prepare for Yorkshire derby

Aston Villa v Sheffield United – Premier League – Villa Park
(Image credit: Tim Goode)

Sheffield United captain Billy Sharp is frustrated by the absence of supporters from stadiums and admitted Sunday’s Yorkshire derby against Leeds will be a poorer spectacle because of the empty stands at Bramall Lane.

Another spike in coronavirus cases led to the Government putting the brakes on plans for spectators to be able to return to sporting venues on a socially distanced basis from October 1 following a number of pilot test events.

While Sharp appreciates safety is paramount, he explained that the Premier League has prioritised the welfare of players, officials and club staff in allowing games to go ahead in recent months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And the 34-year-old is adamant that similar considerations could be made to accommodate the return of fans.

Ahead of the game against his former club this weekend, Sharp said: “It’s obviously one I looked forward to on the fixture list. I’m gutted there’s no fans. I’m getting frustrated with it, I want to see the fans back in.

“I don’t work for the Government but I see parks all over Sheffield, coffee shops, local businesses full with people and the grassroots game has got their fans in which I’m pleased to see because they need it as well.

“There’s no better places than football clubs that are well-run businesses that can put the measures in place like they have done to get professional footballers in a safe environment to train and to get Project Restart going like they did.

“They piloted games and I think it was successful and I think a few football clubs who came out and did that said it went really well.”

Playing behind closed doors may have been novel when top-flight teams resumed their campaigns earlier in the summer but Sharp believes the matchday experience is now weakened by the empty seats.

Asked whether he gets the same buzz now as he did when there was the prospect of playing in front of a full house, he replied: “I’m not going to lie, you don’t.

“Away games, you’re driving in on the bus, you see the fans, it gets you going. When you come out to warm-up, the adrenaline starts to pump and it’s difficult.

“The fans are the biggest part about the sport and it isn’t the same without them, definitely.”

The Blades are yet to find the net as they have started their second season back in the Premier League with back-to-back defeats, with manager Chris Wilder shuffling his strike pack.

Sharp started up front alongside Oli McBurnie in their 2-0 defeat to Wolves but then had to be content with a role off the bench as Oliver Burke and David McGoldrick were given the nod in the 1-0 loss at Aston Villa.

Sharp said: “It’s up for grabs and you’ve got to grab it and score goals, if you’re scoring goals then you’re not going to be left out the team.

“If the strikers are scoring goals then we’re going to be winning more games, it’s something we need to start doing.”

Sharp returned to his boyhood club for a second time in July 2015 following a 12-month spell at Leeds, where he played under four different managers. Despite a turbulent time for the Elland Road club, he has fond recollections.

He added: “I’ve got quite a lot of good memories actually. If it wasn’t Sheffield United who came in for me, I would have stayed there another season.

“It’s a great club and they deserve to be back in the Premier League and it’s good to see them doing well, but hopefully not on Sunday.”