DONCASTER Rovers have no intention of selling prized asset Billy Sharp in the January transfer window, says boss Dean Saunders.
Sharp, the club’s record signing, was a notable absentee from the teamsheet as Rovers drew 1-1 with fellow strugglers Coventry City at the weekend. Saunders said he missed the clash due to personal reasons. The Star understands he has not trained with the rest of the squad since last Wednesday because of the family problem.
There are growing fears the forward will leave in the New Year, with Southampton and Ipswich Town still interested in securing his services.
Rovers snubbed a £2.3m offer for Sharp and James Coppinger from Ipswich Town back in May while the club accepted a £3.25m bid from Southampton for Sharp on the eve of the 2011/12 campaign but the Sheffield-born player rejected the switch.
Sharp claimed 16 goals as Rovers narrowly avoided relegation last year and is viewed as pivotal to the club’s hopes of retaining their Championship status again.
Despite sustaining ankle ligament damage in the league curtain-raiser at Brighton and Hove Albion, Sharp has notched two goals from five starts this term.
Saunders is unfazed by the speculation surrounding Sharp and has insisted: “He is our player.
“He has had a bad injury and is coming back from that. He is still not right and he knows that himself. I’m hoping he starts banging in goals for us. is a goal-scorer and I’m sure there are lots of clubs out there who would like him, which I’ve read myself.
“Billy has not been a 100 per cent fit and I need him to get in our team and bang some goals in.”
Asked if he has been approached by a club interested in capturing Sharp, Saunders said: “I have not spoken to anybody about him but I can see the vultures are circling so we will see what happens.”
Top agent Willie McKay, who has exclusive control over all transfer deals at Rovers, has reiterated Saunders stance on Sharp and said the club are determined to build a team around the talismanic player.
“I believe up to eight clubs want Billy, but Dean does not want to lose him as he is a top player,” he said. “We want to keep players like Billy Sharp and add players of Premier League quality to the squad to help galvanise the team.
“We have already brought in Pascal Chimbona, Herita Illunga, El-Hadji Diouf and hopefully there will be more to come.”
Saunders may have to make two alterations tonight for the clash with Middlesbrough. Brian Stock and Ilunga have groin and toe problems respectively while Diouf is set to make his debut.