ENGLAND international Michael Owen has led the tributes to Billy Sharp following the Doncaster Rovers striker’s brave decision to play and score against Middlesbrough three days after the death of his newborn son.
Sharp dedicated his stunning volley at home to Boro to his son Luey, who died at the weekend, as Rovers crashed to a 3-1 defeat. The funeral for his two-day-old son was held yesterday.
Manchester United striker Owen, a scorer of 40 goals from 89 caps for his country, sent Sharp a message on Twitter saying: “Well done Billy. Puts football into perspective. I’m sure he will be very proud of his Dad.”
Sharp, who was given the captain’s armband for the evening, tweeted: “Just had a mention from my hero @themichaelowen he’s a legend and thankyou. #myhero.”
Rovers have been inundated with emails and messages from the football fraternity following Sharp’s tragic loss while the forward’s Twitter followers has more than doubled in the last 48 hours.
“Again I just want to thank everyone who has shown me there sympathy and support, I’m gob smacked,” added Sharp.
Following his 14th minute opener at the Keepmoat Stadium, Sharp wheeled away in celebration towards the home fans, lifted up his shirt to reveal a T-shirt which read: “That’s for you son.” He was not issued with a yellow card by the referee for his celebration.
Highly-rated Rovers defender George Friend told The Star: “It was a great goal. It meant a lot to him. It is a tough time for him so I’m really proud and pleased for him.
“He showed his character the other night to come out and play after everything that has happened.
“I think he is dealing with it well. It can’t be easy. I can’t imagine what he is going through. Our thoughts are with him and his family.
“We all know what Billy is like. He is a good, lively character. We are all rallying around him and supporting him.”
Controversial Senegalese international El-Hadji Diouf, who made his debut against Boro and was the architect of Sharp’s stunning strike, said: “Billy scored a world class goal and we need players with his mentality in the team.”
The tributes and messages of support for Sharp have flooded in on social networking site Twitter.
On-loan Tottenham Hotspurs midfielder Ryan Mason, recalled into midfield in place of the injured Brian Stock, tweeted: “Bad performance tonight after there first goal! Although pleased for @billysharp10 and his goal, top guy and a brave man! A lot of love!”
John Oster, on the sidelines with a neck injury, wrote: “Has my roomy @billysharp10 gone and scored? Wot a guy,go on son oster is buzzing for ya!! #sohappyforhim.”
Sheffield Wednesday youngster Matthew Tumilty said: “Tevez £250k p/w refuses to play cause he doesnt feel up to it Billy Sharp £10k p/w plays 2 days after his 2 day old son passes away #respect.”
Middlesbrough chief Tony Mowbray also expressed his admiration to Sharp, saying: “Taking the professionalism out of it, I’m delighted for the boy that he’s scored such a fantastic goal on such an occasion for him.
“It’s amazing to think for anyone who’s had children the emotional drain that must have been with him - I couldn’t put it into words. For him to score a wonder-goal, your headlines should be there really - a goal from heaven.”