Monday, September 25, 2023
HomeSportsDominic King: The sad story of Graeme Sharpe's exile at Everton

Dominic King: The sad story of Graeme Sharpe’s exile at Everton

The back of the main stand can be seen at Goodison Park. From one end to the other, along the course, is a huge pictorial tribute to the men who set the standards.

Alex Young, “Golden Vision” as he was known, begins the sequence. To his right, Dave Hickson, Bob Latchford and Dixie Dean followed before Joe Royle completed the line. The image that really catches your eye is the man we haven’t named yet: Graeme Sharp.

Positioned between Dean and Rowell, there is Sharp and the ball is left footed, elegantly moving towards the goal. No matter how many times you’ve visited Goodison, something about it still makes you stand up and stare – the colors, the scale, the majesty. It is a moment in time.

What a player he was Sharp: Gifted to Everton 11 years after leaving Dumbarton in 1980 for £120,000, he scored 159 times in 446 appearances and provided the difference for fine partnerships with Andy Gray, Adrian Heath and Gary Lineker, who carries the No. 9 jersey.

Only the incomparable Dean could better the sum of the proud Scotsman, who pulled off an incredible leap and shot like a cannonball – think of the volley that settled in the Merseyside derby at Anfield in October 1984. His place in history is secure.

Graeme Sharpe has not set foot at Goodison Park since their defeat by Brighton in January

It's an unfortunate tale of a player who has a mural painted on the Goodison Park side

It’s an unfortunate tale of a player who has a mural painted on the Goodison Park side

Sharp (back row, center right) is arguably the club's greatest living player – he formed a significant part of their success in the 1980s.

Sharp (back row, center right) is arguably the club’s greatest living player – he formed a significant part of their success in the 1980s.

But for the past five months, looking at the photo has left me with deep sadness. Sharp, who won two league titles, scored the opening goal against Watford in the 1984 FA Cup Final victory and also claimed the European Cup Winners’ Cup, is Everton’s greatest living player.

He is to Everton what Sir Kenny Dalglish is to Liverpool, Sir Bobby Charlton to Manchester United and Mike Summerbee to Manchester City: a statesman who has represented the club all over the world with dignity and pride.

Can you imagine none of these guys ever being able to set foot on the courts they once dreamed of?

However, this is the situation that Sharpe, now 62, currently finds himself in. The last time he attended a game at Goodison was on 3 January, when Everton were ransacked by Brighton and lost 4-1. It was a heated night, with protests against the board.

On the day of the next home match, against Southampton on 14 January, Everton released a statement saying they had been given security advice that it was not safe for board members to attend the game and that this was ‘very sad’. Situation.

The night before, a video had been posted to social media by a group of fans, lined up on Goodison Road with signs. Among the barbs aimed at Chairman Bill Kenwright and major shareholder Farhad Moshiri, one banner with two words made the deepest havoc ever.

You read “Sharpe Out”.

What made this even more impressive was the fact that the person holding it was positioned directly below the image that graces the main stand in honor of Sharpe. Within the club, there was disgust at being targeted.

Sharp was appointed to an unpaid non-executive role on the Board of Directors on January 5, 2022, calling it “one of the greatest honors ever.” He was part of the furniture at the club, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005 before becoming an ambassador and then president of player life. He added: ‘This club is in my blood. I take my role as trustee of our great club very seriously.

These words were not hollow. Sharp has always been a regular visitor to Finch Farm, the club’s training base. He will be there, giving advice and encouragement to players, if required, and being a sounding board for managers.

He had been involved in the recruitment and interview process when Frank Lampard was appointed, following the sacking of Rafa Benitez, and was desperate for his success. Meanwhile, the esteem in which Lampard held him was beyond question. He couldn’t speak for it any higher.

Critics questioned Sharp’s influence in reality behind the scenes, given that decisions were ultimately made by Farhad Moshiri or Bill Knorwright, but in an often chaotic club, he was laying out a view designed to challenge and question.

There were times when there was a rush to reward players with new contracts quickly, but he always advised against the need to hand out large sums to individuals who still had things to prove. He played at the top and knew what was needed to get there.

Everton’s best interests have always been at his heart. He would be proud to represent the club in any function, and would speak with passion and have a sparkle in his eye too as he engaged in discussions with fans across Stanley Park.

Loud protests have come to celebrate most of Everton's season - including calls for Sharpe to leave

Loud protests have come to celebrate most of Everton’s season – including calls for Sharpe to leave

The indignation and anger directed at Farhad Moshiri spilled over into the other board members

The indignation and anger directed at Farhad Moshiri spilled over into the other board members

Too bad that gloss is gone. Sharpe, an unassuming man who never sinks into nostalgia or displays memorabilia from his footballing career in his home, is deeply hurt that he has not been able to watch Everton since January 21 at the London Stadium. His wife, Anne Marie – the couple are proud grandparents – is intolerable about criticism.

Who can blame her? Sharp has not visited Finch Farm recently, nor will he go to social situations where there is a possibility of a fan having a complaint against the board and there is a very real possibility that he may never go to Goodison again. What a miserable situation.

They sing in Street Gwladys about “If You Knew Your History” but clearly some of those who don’t – having a grievance with Moshiri and Kenwright is one thing, making a club legend unwelcome in the place that should be his home is unforgivable.

As stunning as all of this photo on the main runway is as a reminder of who he is and what he’s been up to, Graeme Sharp’s presence at Goodison Park shouldn’t be in the form of a photo. Instead, the empty seat he had in the directors’ box is the emblem of a sad and unfortunate story.



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