Billy Sharp rejects £3.25 million move to Southampton

Billy Sharp celebrates scoring his first goal of the game
Billy Sharp celebrates scoring his first goal of the game

BILLY Sharp turned down a £3.25 million move to Southampton yesterday as Sean O’Driscoll snapped up his first two summer signings.

Tommy Spurr rejected a late bid from Blackpool to join Rovers from Sheffield Wednesday, and talented young winger Kyle Bennett has also been signed from newly promoted Bury.

But a bid to bring former Leeds United skipper Richard Naylor appears to have stalled, and he may not now be joining the club.

The Saints came back with their huge increased offer for Sharp earlier this week after previously posting a bid just under £3 million.

Because of the size of the bid Rovers informed Sharp and the final decision was left to him, although chairman John Ryan and the club’s other two joint owners Dick Watson and Terry Bramhall impressed upon the player that they wanted him to stay.

Ryan said: “Billy didn’t want to go and we are delighted.

“It’s not just the goals he scores, he’s a big figure at the club and his enthusiasm is infectious.

“Billy told me he loves it here but he is very ambitious and said he would have to seriously consider a move if a Premier League club came in for him and we fully understand that.

“If we are progressing as a club he will be happy and I just hope more and more people will come and watch us to enable us to do that.”

O’Driscoll said: “I’m delighted as well because I know Billy has set his sights on scoring 20 or more goals next season and you can’t put a price on players who are capable of doing that.

“He was frustrated when he got injured towards the end of last season and I think he will come back buzzing and eager to go again.”

The Doncaster boss was also pleased with the £200,000 signing of 23-year-old Spurr who he said had really wanted to join Rovers and had turned down more lucrative offers from other clubs.

He added: “He’s fallen out of favour at Wednesday but eighteen months ago he was regarded as one of the best left backs in the Championship and I think there is a lot to develop and much more to come from him.”

Bennett’s arrival seems to have slipped under the radar but O’Driscoll said: “He’s definitely signed and will be joining us for the start of pre-season training on Monday.

“We are still talking to Bury about the fee and I’m hopeful we will be able to agree something without it going to tribunal.”

The 20-year-old winger is described as having “blistering pace” and, in the past, was rated a better prospect than older brother Elliott Bennett who recently signed for Norwich.

When asked if Bennett’s pace compared with that of speedy full back Mustapha Dumbuya, the Rovers boss replied: “There aren’t many as fast as ‘Muzzy’.

“He’s not really had anyone to push him before so it will be interesting.”

Both newcomers will be in the squad to visit Armthorpe Welfare in next Thursday night’s testimonial match for Des Bennett (7.30pm) but Rovers will be without Martin Woods and James O’Connor after last season’s injury jinx struck again.

O’Connor may need a cartilage operation and could be out for four to six weeks. But Woods will miss the start of the season after being diagnosed with a hip problem that requires surgery and could keep him on the sidelines for four months.

n O’Driscoll has admitted an interest in Wolves striker Andy Keogh but believes he is out of Rovers’ price range.