HE may have been the king of the Keepmoat but Billy Sharp is still attempting to prove himself worthy following his switch to Southampton, writes Liam Hoden.
Rovers travel to St Mary’s on Saturday but it may prove only a brief on-pitch reunion with Sharp who has failed to hold down a regular place in Nigel Adkins’ starting XI.
Sharp has made just three starts and netted one goal since his January switch to Southampton for a fee believed to be around £1.8m.
And the 26-year-old has been on the bench for the last six matches for the Championship leaders.
Fellow January signing Tadanari Lee appears to be Adkins’ preferred choice of partner for Rickie Lambert in attack.
But even an injury to the Japanese international has not seen Sharp given the nod with Guly do Prado named ahead of him.
Southampton Daily Echo reporter Gordon Simpson admitted he was surprised at the lack of action Sharp has been given.
He said: “It is surprising, having paid nearly £2m for Sharp, that Southampton haven’t used him more, especially as he was signed to help get them out of the Championship.
“But he has also had to try and force his way into a winning team, which is never simple, and faces some stiff competition for the one starting place alongside Lambert.
“It has obviously not been the start to life at St Mary’s that Sharp would have hoped for.
“In his limited time paired with Rickie Lambert in attack he appeared to strike up a fairly decent partnership, but he has really been a victim of the success of Tadanari Lee.
“Lee has been very effective alongside Lambert and has been rewarded with the bulk of the starting duties.”
Simpson also refuted the suggestion Sharp’s style of play is too similar to that of Lambert for the two to function as an effective partnership.
He said: “There certainly appears no reason why those two couldn’t form a formidable pairing if given the chance.
“Although they are both powerful frontmen, capable of leading the line themselves, they aren’t carbon copies of each other and appear to possess plenty of different qualities.”