Fans favourite Sharp hopes backing continues as he looks to deliver Nottingham Forest to top flight
IF there is one summer signing the Nottingham Forest fans have taken to their hearts more than any other, it is Billy Sharp.
And you suspect the feeling is mutual.
The striker admits he might consider forgoing the chance to play Premier League football with Southampton in favour of a permanent move to the City Ground in the future, such is his affinity with the Reds supporters.
But his real hope is that he does not have to make that sacrifice – that he might yet have the option of playing top-flight football with Forest next season.
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The in-form front-man's goals will doubtless play a part in any success under Alex McLeish, with the 26-year-old's injury-time equaliser earning the new manager a point on Saturday.
But Sharp says the fans' backing at the City Ground also played a part in their fightback – and he hopes they will retain their positive attitude for the rest of the campaign, starting with their potentially difficult trip to Blackburn today.
"You play football on the pitch and everyone's eyes are on you. If you have 25,000 people behind you, supporting you, it is only going to help," he said.
"I like to have a positive relationship with fans because I will have some bad games here and you hope they will forgive you for those bad games if they come.
"If they stick with me, I will be very happy. And the fans played a part in getting us the result on Saturday.
"We were on top, but then they scored and the fans could easily have become frustrated, just as we were on the pitch.
"But they showed good belief in us, they kept backing us and the roar when we scored was unbelievable.
"If we can keep in and around the play-off places, the fans can help us."
Forest's inconsistency so far this season has already cost Sean O'Driscoll his job.
But Sharp is convinced that it need not cost them their promotion hopes.
"I have been in this position with Sheffield United before and we could not quite stay in the play-off places," he said.
"We would win a game or two, get up into the top six, and then slip out again.
"We could not quite stay in there. But then, with ten games to go, we got in there and we stayed there. And that is when it matters most.
"If we can do the same thing, I would be pretty happy with that. As long as you are in the right place when it matters."
Sharp admitted the chance to play under his former Doncaster boss O'Driscoll at Forest was a key factor in his decision to join Forest in the summer.
But, while he has sympathy for O'Driscoll, he says the decision to part company with O'Driscoll will not influence his relationship with the club.
"It is football. Decisions get made and, whether people like them or not, you have to get on with it," said Sharp. "It doesn't matter who the manager is; you have to give 100 per cent and play for the fans. They are the ones who got us the point, in the end.
"It was a shock, because we had won the game against Leeds and we were a point away from the play-off places.
"But there are people in charge of the club who have a right to an opinion. Their decisions count and they have made it now.
"I think the people in charge have said why they have done it. They said they wanted to change things while it was a positive step, rather than a reaction to a negative situation.
"We have shown good spirit against Palace and it got us a point. Hopefully we can keep that going and get on a good run of form."
Sharp says McLeish's message was simple, prior to the game against Palace, as he completed a whirlwind few days by taking charge of his first match.
"The manager just said he wanted more of what we had produced against Leeds. I thought if we had got the second goal, we would have won quite easily," he said.
"But we had to come from behind again. We have shown that we can do that again, but it would be better if we were in front.
"I thought we handled the pressure of a new manager coming in well. I believe we deserved a point and the fans stuck with us.
"I hit the post in the first half and then again in the second, after the keeper had got a touch to it. I thought it was going to hit the post and go in, fortunately I carried on my run just in case and was able to put it in."
But the biggest question on the lips of Forest fans is over whether the striker will still be with the club beyond the end of the season, when his loan spell from Southampton expires.
"I still have not had any answers from Southampton as to why I was allowed to come here. But I was told enough to know that I would not get a crack at it with them," he said. "With a team like Forest interested, I want to put things in my own hands and say that I wanted to come here.
"Luckily for me, Sean wanted me here and I feel like I am at the right club. When I signed on loan I signed for the season and I knew there was going to be no uncertainty in January. I am not in a rush to sign permanently, because I don't want to change anything.
"It does not mean I don't want to sign permanently, because I am enjoying every single minute here.
"I want to help this squad to win promotion.
"I do have aspirations to play in the Premier League. That is why I am in no rush to sign here. I am not saying I won't sign, because I am enjoying my football. I am thinking about it.
"The fans here have been brilliant with me. It is great to have their backing. But I do want to play in the Premier League and, if I can score 20 goals this season, I can't see why Southampton wouldn't want me.
"If Nigel Adkins can't see that I am a goal scorer, he must need some new glasses. He had me at Scunthorpe, where I scored goals and I have scored goals in the Championship as well. I am not getting ahead of myself, but I know I can score goals in the Premier League."
And Forest will be hoping that, if Sharp does get to prove that very point, it will be at the City Ground.