BILLY SHARP knew that his time at Leeds United would not be straightforward right from the off.
His first meeting with the Whites’ idiosyncratic former owner Massimo Cellino confirmed that fact, with a conveyor belt of managers in a bewildering 2014-15 season further reinforcing that prevalent belief.
As did being pressed into service as an auxilary midfielder.
Yet for all the peculiar goings-on in his near-year-long stint at Elland Road, the Sheffield United captain does possess some precious memories which he can call upon when he is old and grey from his short spell at the club.
Like netting on his debut in front of the Geldard End when he struck a late televised winner against Middlesbrough in August 2014 – David Hockaday’s sole league win of his infamous 70-day spell in charge at Leeds.
Another sweet contribution from the bench saw him fire a similarly dramatic last-gasp strike in a derby win at Huddersfield in February 2015 – which earned United a first double over the Terriers in almost 76 years.
An iconic photo of those delirious celebrations with United’s ecstatic fans is resident in Sharp’s family home – even if he would love to add another addition at his former club’s expense on his first return to Elland Road tonight.
On his eventful, if short time at Leeds, Sharp, who moved to the Blades in July 2015, said: “When I signed for Leeds, the first person I met was Massimo Cellino and he said to me: ‘Is that you Billy?’ and I said: ‘Yeah.’
“And he went: ‘I thought you were bigger than that?’ And I thought: ‘Oh, here we go...’
“We had three managers. Some of them played me, some of them did not. I am just fortunate at the minute that we have got a stable, very good manager who believes in all his players.
“The move happened really quick. I signed on the Friday and then got told I was playing the next day (against Boro) and it was on Sky and I could not have written it any better myself. It was 1-0 in the last minute and I scored and it was a good start. I think I did not play much after that.
“There was a change of manager who totally froze me out. Then (Neil) Redfearn came in. I was in and out of the squad, but when I played, I enjoyed it.
“I had three managers in god knows what time and the club was not really as stable as what it is now or doing as well. But I enjoyed it. It is a good city and very good football club.
“I had some good times there, especially coming off the bench as a midfielder and scoring against Huddersfield. That sticks out in my mind as well as the goal on my debut as well.
“I always said to my dad that I would like to play for Leeds United. I managed to do that and it diverted me back to Sheffield. I was happy; it was a short period, but I enjoyed it and I can say that I played for Leeds.”
A straightforward working-class lad and footballer who was not scared to show his passion in an increasingly anodyne footballing world, Sharp’s uncomplicated approach resonated with Leeds fans as it is always likely to with his beloved Blades.
The lure of a return ‘home’ to Bramall Lane in the summer of 2015 was always likely to prove irresistible to Sharp, although he admits that he would have happily stayed at Leeds if his boyhood club had not called.
Sharp said: “Ipswich wanted me, but I did not want to move away again. I wanted to make it work and play regularly for Leeds.
“But I only had a year left and Sheffield United were offering me two years. Although I was dropping down a league it was United, so it was a no-brainer.
“It was obviously a big decision to drop down to League One, but I thought I was just going to go there and bounce straight back up, which we did not. But it has worked out well in the end.”
Indeed it has and after not being involved in the Blades’ marquee Steel City derby win at Sheffield Wednesday through injury, Sharp – who admitted to shedding a few tears at missing out – is itching to make up for that at his old club’s expense this evening.
You sense it is an occasion which is right up Sharp’s street, with the marksman having never been shy at displaying his big-game credentials over the years.
Sharp, set to line up against one of his good friends tonight in Leeds defender Liam Cooper, added: “I am not going to lie; I had tears in my eyes when the gaffer ruled me out (at Hillsborough).
“But it has gone now and we got the three points which was the main thing.
“The second-best thing to playing against Sheffield Wednesday was sitting there and watching us beat them.
“It was a good performance by the boys and one similar on Friday night would be nice. It will be nice to be involved and hopefully we can get a similar result.
“We are rising to every occasion we are coming up against at the minute.”