Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder has not ruled out an emotional return to the starting line-up for fans favourite Billy Sharp against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
But Wilder insisted it will not be for sentimental reasons if Sharp is back in the first XI to lead out his side at his beloved Bramall Lane in their first Premier League game there for over a decade.
“No. I’ve got to pick the right team. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t start with Billy Sharp,” said Wilder.
“Because if I pick the right team in my eyes and Billy’s in, then that’s the right team that I’ve picked.
“It’s not a popularity contest. I don’t pick a side on sentimentality. Billy’s pushing on the door because he’s been outstanding for us and me, not because he used to live half a mile away.”
Hometown striker Sharp did not start the Blades’ Premier League opener at Bournemouth last week, but stepped off the bench to make it 1-1 and earn them a confidence-boosting point.
“He’s come back in brilliant nick, he did as much as he possibly could, he scored goals pre-season and it was a real difficult decision to leave him out,” Wilder said.
“I’m not surprised in terms of his reaction. Maybe the Billy Sharp of 10 years ago might have been a bit different.
“But that comes with maturity and his responsibilities as a captain and a leader, which I know he’s enjoyed immensely over the last three years.
“But still, you see a bit of an edge to him you know, when he’s getting stripped off, as if to say, ‘I’m going to show you for not picking me’, which I like.
“I enjoy that he’s got that edginess about him that he wants to play. It’s a natural reaction and attitude which I love.”
Wilder, who has no new injury concerns, is expected to select from the same squad, with summer signings Lys Mousset and Ravel Morrison not yet ready for first-team action.
The Blades manager must decide whether to hand club record signing Oli McBurnie his first start, while midfielder Muhamed Besic, signed on a season-long loan from Everton, could make his first appearance.
Defender Phil Jagielka, an unused substitute at Bournemouth, is also hoping to feature after returning to Bramall Lane from Everton in July.