Why Billy Sharp could be a useful signing for Celtic in January
According to The Guardian, Celtic have been linked with a move for Sheffield United star Billy Sharp, who is expected to seek an exit from Bramall Lane during the mid-season trading period after falling out of favour under Chris Wilder.
The 33-year-old, who plundered 23 goals in the EFL Championship last term to fire the Blades to automatic promotion, has struggled for regular game time in the Premier League this season, starting only once and clocking up just 11 league appearances so far.
With Lys Mousset, David McGoldrick, Callum Robinson and Oliver McBurnie all competing for the two spots in front of goal, veterans like Sharp and Leon Clarke have been forced to watch on from the sidelines and that seems unlikely to change in the coming months.
However, with the transfer window now open, Sharp is attracting considerable interest from elsewhere, with Celtic joining Championship promotion hopefuls, Leeds United, in the race to sign the Southampton-born forward. (h/t Reliable journalist David Smith)
Meanwhile, Celtic suffered their first Old Firm defeat of the ongoing campaign as Rangers finally managed to get one over their arch-rivals with a 2-1 victory on Sunday.
The Gers closed the gap on the reigning champions to just two points atop the domestic standings, and with a game in hand, it would be fair to say that Steven Gerrard’s side now hold the cards in the title race.
It’s true that Neil Lennon doesn’t really need to make any wholesale changes to the squad after a largely successful first half of the season, however, with fixtures set to come thick and fast during the crucial second half of the campaign, the manager might need to address depth issues in some departments.
Celtic have looked rock-solid defensively so far but with Hatem Abd Elhamed and Jozo Simunovic both on the treatment table, the Hoops can certainly do with some temporary cover at the heart of the defence.
That might sound a bit debatable, given that Nir Bitton is more than a handy option at the back, but few would disagree with the fact that Celtic are in dire need of a reliable back-up for star striker Odsonee Edouard to alleviate the goalscoring workload on the Frenchman’s shoulders.
Leigh Griffiths hasn’t looked the same since returning to action while Vakoun Issouf Bayo’s move to Parkhead has turned into a big disappointment due to the Ivorian’s constant struggles with injuries.
To put things into perspective, it is easy to see that Celtic desperately need someone to deputize for Edouard and a proven goalscorer like Billy Sharp, who boasts of over 550 appearances across the top-four divisions of English football, could be an excellent short-term fix for the Hoops.
One might argue that Sharp, 33, doesn’t really fit the age profile of players that Celtic should be looking to sign but his exploits in English football over the years certainly can’t be played down.
As per Whoscored, Sharp excels with his aerial ability, work rate and hold-up play to bring others into the game, meaning that he could well bring the best out of more mobile attackers like James Forrest and Ryan Christie.
Furthermore, the veteran has carved out a big reputation for himself as a bonafide poacher in front of goal over the years and his incredible strike rate in English football suggests that it shouldn’t really be a big problem for him to score goals north of the border despite his advancing years.
Jermain Defoe has been working wonders for Rangers at the twilight of his career and Celtic have every reason to believe that Sharp could possibly emulate his compatriot’s success in Scottish football.
Interestingly, Sharp was linked with a move to Celtic way back in 2013 when Neil Lennon was serving his first managerial stint at the club. Lennon had identified the then Southampton striker to replace Gary Hooper (h/t Scotsman) and while a move to Parkhead never materialized, Sharp went on to brand Celtic as a ‘massive’ club (h/t Daily Star).
Sharp might not be the same player that he was six or seven years back but if his 23-goal haul last season was anything to go by, the 33-year-old still has plenty to offer at the highest level.
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Having said that, Celtic could land themselves an excellent short-term fix with a deal for Billy Sharp in January.