IN-FORM Saints striker Billy Sharp is backing himself to fire goals against the best defenders in world football.
The £1.8m hit man is the form player of Saints’ pre-season, banging in five goals already to make himself comfortably the club’s top summer scorer.
Despite all that though, and only one other goal from a Saints striker in pre-season, Sharp is struggling to get a place to face Manchester City in the club’s Premier League opener a week on Sunday.
However, he believes he can compete against the very best and is determined to do all he can to convince Nigel Adkins to give him his chance.
“If I am playing at the start of the season then there’s no better way to test myself than against the likes of Kompany and Lescott,” he said.
“I think they had the best defence in the league last year, so it would be a test,” he said.
“But I still fancy myself to get one.
“I’m feeling sharp. It’s probably one of the best pre-seasons I’ve had since I’ve been playing.
“Touch wood I’ve had no injury issues, and I’m feeling a lot sharper and a lot fitter, so I’m raring to go.
“The last few seasons I’ve had stop-start pre-seasons with little niggles, so I’m glad that this pre-season I’ve managed to stay 100 per cent fit.”
The big kick-off kicking is looming ever larger on the horizon now and Saints could be forgiven for starting to feel the nerves a little with such a daunting first game, but Sharp, pictured, is hoping his side will have the shock factor early on.
“You’ve got to play them at some stage, so maybe when we’re very eager and hopefully they’re still a little bit tired from celebrating winning the championship, hopefully we can surprise a few of the big teams early on,” he reasoned.
“We’re going to be underdogs in most games, but I’m sure we’ll be okay and we’ll give a good account of ourselves.
“We came in at the end of June and it’s come around really quickly, but I’m happy it’s come around now because I’m ready to start the season.
“I feel really sharp, so if the gaffer says he needs me to play then I’m ready.
“We’ve got a quality squad of players, so I need to be fit and ready so the gaffer can pick me.
“Everyone’s pushing for places and everyone’s trying to get game time, so there’s a week to go and the gaffer’s got a lot of players to pick from.
“I want to start as many games as I can, so I need to try and push on and try my hardest to get in the team.”
Saints now have just one pre-season game remaining before the City trip, against Italian side Udinese at St Mary’s on Saturday.
“It will be a tough game Saturday, they will be really good on the ball and it will be a good test for us,” reckoned Sharp.
“But we should give them a good game as well, because we’re looking sharp.”