Championship previews: Billy Sharp on his emotional reunion with Donny and more
Published 08:40 24/03/12 By MirrorFootball
Billy Sharp aims to fire Southampton a step closer to a Premier League return – but is hoping he does not help send old club Doncaster down in the process.
Sharp is set to line up against Donny today for the first time since his £1.6million move to St Mary’s in January.
The striker said: “I think they will get out of trouble and
survive. They have been unlucky and have been conceding some
“I want them to get out of trouble because they hold a special place in my heart and I have some terrific memories from my time there.
“It is going to be difficult for them because they are a few points adrift.
“But I have a lot of friends at the club who I still speak to and text and we have been talking about the game for weeks. Everyone was excellent to me when I was there. I was sad to leave but I have
come to a fantastic club in Southampton.
“A couple of wins for them can change everything but I am a Southampton player now and obviously want to beat them.
“With so many games it is the most important month of the season.
“If we are top after this we will be within touching distance of the Premier League.
“This is where our strength in squad will come through.
“Everyone will need to play their part but we have a great chance of going up.”
Sharp, 26, will forever be grateful to his former team-mates and Donny fans for the way they helped him come to terms with the death of baby son Luey Jacob last October.
The former Scunthorpe ace added: “After everything that happened at the beginning of the season I think it has spurred me on to become a better player.
“It has made me want to do it all for him. It could have gone either way. I could have felt sorry for myself and let it affect me.
“I managed to dig in and keep going and hopefully I can keep pushing forward, thinking positively and to help get Southampton promoted in the process.”
Sharp is likely to start the match, as fellow strikers Tadanari Lee and Guly do Prado are both injured.
Doncaster boss Dean Saunders claims he was not to blame for selling Sharp – but is praying the former Rover does not push them closer to the relegation trapdoor.
Saunders said: “We had no option but to sell him because he had a clause in his contract before I came to Doncaster.
“He went and let’s just hope he doesn’t do us any more damage.”
GOLDEN oldie Kevin Phillips has ditched plans to retire after scoring his 17th goal of the season in midweek.
The former England striker was ready to quit this summer at
the age of 38.
But his best goal return since 2008 has convinced him to play on – although he is refusing to commit himself to Blackpool .
Ahead of today's visit to promotion chasing Reading , Phillips said: “I will definitely play for another year. Whether it is here, I don’t know. I’ve not thought that far ahead.
“Let’s just see what happens this season and what we do.
“If we go to Wembley and get promoted, then that would be great. But I am not going to make any decisions just yet.”
Phillips hinted he could yet be persuaded to stay by boss Ian Holloway’s kid-glove treatment.
Holloway allows Phillips to skip training with the rest of the squad some days to spare him long drives up and down the M6 from his Midlands home.
He added: “The manager has been absolutely fantastic with me, allowing me to do my own training at home and keep myself right – and it is paying off.
“To have a manager who respects and trusts you is a major thing. When I do sit down in summer to think about what I do next year that will have a big influence on my decision.”
Phillips’ strike partner Brett Ormerod is amazed he has been able to play at this level for so long.
Ormerod, a mere youth of 35, said: “With the game being so quick now, there are not many people my age still playing, never mind Kevin’s.”
At the other end of the age spectrum is Reading’s loan signing from Arsenal, Benik Afobe.
Royals boss Brian McDermott admits signing the 19-year-old on the recommendation of Robin van Persie.
McDermott, who will hand the England Under-19 hot-shot a debut today, said: “We’re delighted to have Benik and with eight games to go he is a good addition to the squad.
“He wanted to come here and that was important because he had other options.
“I’ve known about him for a long time. He did well at Huddersfield on loan last season. I know the Arsenal staff think really highly of him and I saw some nice quotes from Robin van Persie on him as well.”
Afobe rejected a return to League One promotion chasers Huddersfield, where he played 19 games on loan last season, to join the Championship high-fliers.
ANDY THORN hopes Coventry ’s ‘Crazy Gang’ spirit can help win the Championship clash of the penniless clubs, writes James Nursey .
Today's visitors Portsmouth prop up the table after being docked 10 points for entering administration, while the Sky Blues are just two points above after flirting with bankruptcy.
Thorn was a member of the original ‘Crazy Gang’ at Wimbledon from 1984-88, and helped them win the FA Cup.
And he believes City’s determination to fight against the odds has fostered a “unique” atmosphere.
He said: “The spirit has become so strong, they are all playing for the club. The fans have recognised that the players have given their best, so the players have tried to give more back.
“It has been a unique experience.”
NICK MONTGOMERY has vowed to put a traumatic season behind him to battle for Millwall ’s survival.
The midfielder joined the Lions on loan from League One promotion chasers Sheffield United this week and is relishing his debut today against Leeds - the team he supported as a lad.
Montgomery has endured a nightmare off the pitch this season, with his twin daughters born prematurely and his wife struck by meningitis.
But the former Blades skipper, 30, said: “This is not about me. It’s important we move further away from bottom three.
“I supported Leeds as a boy but I’ve scored against them and always done well.
“I had a difficult couple of months and was in and out of hospital with my family around Christmas. Thankfully everything is back to normal now.”