Paul Goodwin’s Verdict: A togetherness in times of need

Billy Sharp
Billy Sharp

IF Billy Sharp had his way he’d be running out in the red and white hoops this weekend - trying to take his mind off other things.

Just like last month, following victory at Peterborough, the international break has arrived at an incredibly inconvenient time for Rovers.

The momentum gained after another emotional rollercoaster of a win at Portman Road becomes somewhat lost before the trip to Barnsley a week on Saturday.

But at least the break gives Billy the chance to spend time with his family and grieve properly.

Some things are more important than football.

Billy cried so much last week that he ran out of tears, Dean Saunders poignantly told the press at the weekend.

It was a quote almost as touching as Tony Mowbray’s ‘goal from heaven’ line the previous week.

But football has been the perfect release for a man who eats, sleeps and drinks goals - and if Saturday’s memorable victory went any small way to helping Billy get over every parents’ worst nightmare, then his appearance was fully vindicated.

Billy’s incredible show of strength has also allowed football to pay its own respects - in typically unique fashion.

I’ve never witnessed anything quite like the Ipswich fans’ spine-tingling round of applause when Billy headed home in clinical fashion.

That reception alone - a true touch of class from the Tractor Boys - will go some way to easing his pain.

He’ll cherish his goals against Middlesbrough and Ipswich like no others he’ll score past or present.

And the three points won at Portman Road will at least have put a smile - albeit a very brief one - on a face that was still a picture of pain during the post-match interviews on Saturday.

In a strange sort of way, Billy’s turmoil may also have focused a few minds in the Doncaster dressing room.

The club’s on-the-field problems were put firmly into perspective by Billy’s troubles, while the arrival of pantomine villain El Hadji Diouf almost went unnoticed.

When tragedy strikes a close friend it’s natural to relate that to your own family.

And I’m certain the lads at Rovers, especially those with young children, were desperate to win for Billy at the weekend.

Grief brings people closer together, a sports club is no different.

So it was no surprise that Doncaster produced a more cohesive, more crunching and a more organised display at Ipswich.

The 4-4-1-1 formation also seemed to suit Rovers, it made them more structured and harder to break down.

Rovers were snapping into tackles like they really meant business and an Ipswich side packed with talent weren’t allowed the space and time to express themselves.

It was a monumental effort, and Rovers just about got over the finish line to stay in touch with the Championship’s basement sides.

Sharp has also formed an immediate bond with Diouf, and the pair were a joy to watch at Portman Road.

It might have been something of a culture shock for Diouf to join Doncaster but the controversial striker has fitted in at Rovers better than anyone anticipated.

And as long as he continues doing his talking on the pitch then everyone will be happy.

Rovers’ third goal on Saturday was a superb bit of link-up play between Sharp and Diouf, with Sharp repaying his strike partner for the assist against Middlesbrough.

The two of them have developed an instant understanding, while Diouf’s touch and vision perfectly complement Billy’s strength and scoring prowess.

The two of them might have to make big career decisions in January.

But for now Doncaster fans should enjoy watching them in tandem - and they could be the key to climbing away from danger.

Keep up the good work Billy - you’ve done Luey proud.