Saints have completed the signing of Billy Sharp for a fee of £1.85 million. The centre forward signs from Doncaster, having previously turned down a move to St Marys last summer. Sharp started his career at boyhood club Sheffield United, but made a name for himself lower down the football pyramid with Rushden & Diamonds and Scunthorpe. It was at Scunthorpe where he worked alongside current Saints boss Nigel Adkins. Sharp netted 32 goals in Scunny's 2006/07 League 1 promotion campaign. That earned him a big money move back to Sheffield United, where he struggled in front of goal, and subsequently fell out of favour. Sharp signed for Doncaster in 2010, initially on loan. He returned to form at the Keepmoat, scoring 46 goals in an 18 month spell. Earlier this season he attracted plenty of positive media attention for bravely playing against Middlesbrough, just days after his newborn son had tragically died. Sharp scored in that match, before revealing a t-shirt with the words "That's for you son." The former Scunthorpe man continued his fine run of goalscoring form into the winter, and netted the only goal of the game against his current club in December.
Billy Sharp scoring against Middlesbrough
Sharp's arrival raises many questions about Nigel Adkins' future tactical plans. How will Sharp and Lambert fit in together up front? Everything is geared towards getting the best out of Lambert at the moment. Who will play as the deep-lying striker and who will play as the centre forward? Lambert has proven to be adept at both roles. He is a great target man, but also likes to drop off and bring others in to play. Sharp is great finisher, but it remains to be seen what his link up play is like. He would most likely be more suited to a centre forward role, but then we'd be missing out on Lambert's great flick ons and presence in the box. Adkins could of course play with both up front together, although that might not be wise against teams who pack the midfield. Sharp will certainly be useful if Lambert misses any other games. Rickie will almost certainly start every match when fit, but Sharp, Guly, David Connolly and Tadanari Lee could all be rotated in the run in. Lee Barnard stands little hope of getting back into the team now however. The former Southend striker has failed to impress this season, and is a level below the other five forwards. I'm very surprised the club chose to hand him a new contract back in the summer.
Sharp was Southampton's third signing of the window, with Lee and Yago Falque also joining. It's too early to say whether Falque will be a success yet, but Lee certainly looks like a decent prospect up front. Saints also welcomed back Jason Puncheon this month, and the previously out of favour winger has already showed what he has to offer in terms of great skill and work rate. Puncheon's return could be bad news for Steve De Ridder however. Adkins has preferred to play Guly, Richard Chaplow and Jack Cork on the right hand side this season. With Puncheon now in the mix as well, De Ridder will have to work extremely hard to win a place in the starting line up. Saints also failed in an attempt to bring in another central defender on loan last month, with both Matthew Upson and Danny Collins turning down a move to St Marys. There's still time to recruit someone in the loan window, although Adkins may be satisfied with what he's got, with Aaron Martin impressing in the last couple of outings. Radhi Jaidi completed 75 minutes of a development game at Staplewood yesterday, while Dan Seaborne also returned to training this week. It's questionable whether they will be able to get themselves properly match fit in time for the run in however. Jaidi's age may also count against him.
No major outgoings for Saints this month. Ryan Dickson, Jonathan Forte and Ryan Doble all joined League 1 clubs on loan, while Jack Saville signed a deal with Barnet until the end of the season, having previously been at Underhill on loan. None of the aforementioned players have much of a future at St Marys.