Football League Expert & Columnist
Sharp's a true star
Peter Beagrie says Billy Sharp has proved that there are still role models in modern football.
Last Updated: 03/11/11 2:00pm
Billy Sharp is a tremendous role model in an age when we sometimes struggle to find them.
In an era when we see substitutes refusing to warm up to come onto the pitch, the Doncaster striker's actions have put everything into focus. Not only did he pull on a shirt just days after the death of his newborn son, but he also scored a goal for him.
I have three children myself and the tragedy that befell Billy is the worst thing that could happen to a father. I've known him as boy and man and it's quite emotional to write this article, but the strength that he and his family have shown was a fantastic tribute to his unfortunate son.
I always knew Billy was a strong character and the events of this week have cemented the high regard I have always held for him. He possesses that strong-mindedness that many strikers have, but it was quite extraordinary to see him step onto the pitch and score on Tuesday evening. That's something he and his family will always remember and I can't speak highly enough of him.
When I was at Scunthorpe we were looking to sign a new striker and I went on a scouting mission to watch Sheffield United against Sheffield Wednesday. He came on with 20 minutes to go after Steve Kabba ruptured his Achilles and straight away he had me on the edge of my seat.
He was everything we were looking for, making runs and getting involved in things like a little Tasmanian Devil. He did more in 20 minutes than the rest of the players did in the whole game and I went straight back to Brian Laws and told him we had to sign this kid.
We managed to negotiate a loan deal with Neil Warnock and he was sensational for us, scoring bags of goals and showing an incredible appetite for the game before we signed him permanently.
We brought in Andy Keogh from Leeds at the same time and having spent around £150,000 on the pair of them we eventually sold them for £2.8million combined. They were both tremendous young professionals and Billy always worked very hard on his game.
We put on extra sessions for him because he always wanted to stay behind, which was refreshing because many modern professionals go straight into the dressing room and then into their cars once training finishes.
The two of them were a pleasure to work with and they remain friends to this day. In fact, I heard from Andy a couple of days before the Middlesbrough game that Billy had phoned the manager to say he wanted to play and he wanted to score a goal for his son.
Dean Saunders didn't have any hesitation in selecting him and he gave him the captain's armband. Some people have a tendency to write their own headlines and, of course, he scored a fantastic opening goal. In an ideal world it would have been the winner, but while football isn't like that, there's no doubt that he covered himself in glory.
I would like to applaud the supporters of both teams for the way they entered into the spirit of the occasion, particularly the minute of applause before kick-off. I have spoken to several Middlesbrough supporters and they have nothing but admiration for the way this young man handled a terrible situation.
If Billy needed some advice on how to handle such a tragedy, he only needed to look at the opposition dugout. Tony Mowbray brought his wedding forward when his partner Bernadette was diagnosed with cancer and after losing her to the disease I'm sure he'd be only too happy to talk to him, as he'd be able to relate to his situation.
I've seen messages of support from right across the football family and it shows that we have a great game and some fantastic people are involved, whether that be playing, coaching or watching. Tributes have also poured in across Twitter and various websites and rightly so because Billy deserves all the support he can get.
Bill Shankly once said that football is more serious than life or death, but that's rubbish. Football is an important part of our lives, but it is never more important than family.
October's Football League Awards
Championship Manager of the Month
Nigel Adkins (Southampton), Dougie Freedman (Crystal Palace), Chris Hughton (Birmingham), Nigel Pearson (Hull)
PETER'S PICK: Chris Hughton (Birmingham) - Europa League commitments led to a busy month at St Andrews, but the Birmingham boss has handled his squad superbly. They have taken 13 points from their 15 league games and conceded just a single goal in the process.
Championship Player of the Month
Chris Burke (Birmingham), Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace), Kevin Nolan (West Ham), Rickie Lambert (Southampton)
PETER'S PICK: Nathaniel Clyne (Crystal Palace) - Another product of the prolific Palace academy, Clyne - last season's Player of the Year - has been a pivotal part of his team's miserly defence. Four clean sheets in five games in the month of October saw the Eagles soar to the dizzy heights of third by the end of the month. He was the only ever-present in the Palace squad last year, making 49 appearances and the 20-year-old is maturing into a fine right full-back. Not only does he have great pace and defensive capabilities, but he has also shown an attacking prowess which is needed in the modern game.
League One Manager of the Month
Lee Clark (Huddersfield), Gary Megson (Sheffield Wednesday), Chris Powell (Charlton), Russell Slade (Leyton Orient)
PETER'S PICK: Lee Clark (Huddersfield) - Utter dominance from Clark's side, matching 16 points in the month of October with as many goals and an attacking style that has opponents sensing danger from all angles. Jordan Rhodes has been at the forefront on that, capitalising with a fantastic tally of 14 goals in the month.
League One Player of the Month
Scott Cuthbert (Leyton Orient), Daniel Nardiello (Exeter City), Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield), Rhoys Wiggins (Charlton)
PETER'S PICK: Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield) - His 14 goals, including back-to-back hat-tricks for Huddersfield and five in two for Scotland's U21's has seen the deadly young marksman rewarded with a call-up to Scotland's full squad. That's just desserts for Huddersfield's fox in the box, who has proved that his return of 55 goals in the last two seasons was no flash in the pan. Last season Lee Clark sometimes employed a 4-5-1 system away from home with Rhodes often the man to miss out, but this year he has been the first name on the team sheet.
League Two Manager of the Month
Steve Evans (Crawley), Paul Sturrock (Southend), Chris Wilder (Oxford), mark Yates (Cheltenham)
PETER'S PICK: Steve Evans - An almost perfect month for Crawley with five wins and a draw and 14 goals scored. Sides have started backing off the Football League new boys for fear of being rolled over and Crawley have an ability that a lot of teams would love to possess whereby they can stand toe-to-toe with sides and be very physical, but also if teams come out against them and leave space, they have players with pace and ability to exploit that.
League Two Player of the Month
Ryan Clarke (Oxford), Claude Davis (Crawley Town), Ryan Hall (Southend), Danny Hylton (Aldershot)
PETER'S PICK: Danny Hylton (Aldershot) - The Shots hot-shot has had a host of talent scouts from higher divisions flocking to the EBB Stadium to watch him. A magnificent seven goals from hitman Hylton saw him continue his rise to the top of the League Two scoring charts, terrorising defenders and goalkeepers alike. He has tremendous power, pace and balance and is definitely one to watch in the future and he possesses all the attributes to steer Aldershot away from the relegation zone, as long as they can rebuff any advances from likely suitors.