Championship first for Sharp shooter

Ex-England manager Graham Taylor has urged Canaries target Billy Sharp to prove himself in the Championship before trying his luck among football's elite.

By CHRIS LAKEY

Ex-England manager Graham Taylor has urged Canaries target Billy Sharp to prove himself in the Championship before trying his luck among football's elite.

Sharp's 30-goal haul for Scunthorpe last season made him the country's leading league marksman - and set the ball rolling on this summer's chase for his signature.

It's City who lead the chase with their £2m-plus offer the only one which currently meets Scunthorpe's valuation of the 21-year-old hitman.

Wolves, Sheffield Wednesday, Burnley and West Brom are all keeping a close watch on developments, but the giants of the Premiership have so far kept a discreet distance - because, Taylor believes, Sharp must first prove himself in the Championship.

Taylor, a Scunthorpe vice-president, says it is no longer fashionable for Premiership clubs to scour the lower divisions for talent.

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“Supporters of Premiership clubs do not think their club is showing any real ambition if they sign Championship or lower division players,” said Taylor.

“I am afraid it is now a sign of the times that signing foreign players - and appointing foreign managers - is the fashion.

“It looks as if Billy will have to prove himself in the Championship - with either the Iron or another club - before the Premiership give him a chance.”

There are plenty of precedents for using a Championship club as a stepping stone to the big time - with former Canaries man Dean Ashton the perfect example.

Ashton left Crewe for Norwich in January, 2005, for £3m, but one year and 17 league goals later West Ham deemed him ready for Premiership football, and paid more than £7m for his signature.

The asking price for Sharp begins at £2m, with Scunthorpe chairman Steve Wharton's add-ons taking the final price closer to that familiar £3m mark.