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Meet our latest Weekend Wonder: Graeme Sharp
Graeme Sharp tells Sunday League stalwarts to never give up on the dream....

Get on with the Game: Graeme Sharp with a budding young footballer

Get on with the Game: Graeme Sharp with a budding young footballer

Everton signed Graeme Sharp as an unknown from Dumbarton for a fee of £120,000 in April 1980. He went on to spend more than a decade spearheading the Toffees attack.

Only the legendary Dixie Dean has rippled the net more times for the Merseyside club. During the 80s his goals helped Everton win two league titles, an FA Cup and a Cup Winners Cup.

After 11 glorious seasons and 150 goals with the Toffees, Sharp moved in 1991 to Oldham, whom he helped win promotion to the top flight.

When Joe Royle quit as Oldham manager to take over at Everton in November 1994, Sharp took over as player-manager at Boundary Park.

Three disappointing campaigns later, he walked in March 1997 with Oldham struggling in the relegation places.

After spending a season managing League of Wales outfit Bangor City, Sharp now works as a football pundit and is currently Everton's fans' liaison officer.

The Goodison Park legend is an ambassador for Barclays’ “Get on with the Game” campaign, a project is set-up to promote the FA’s Respect campaign at grassroots level. The Scotsman had plenty to say to Weekend Wonders…..

Has the FA’s Respect campaign had any effect?
Other projects like Barclays’ ‘Get on with the Game’ are key to its overall success because they help to stress to children how important it is to respect the referee.

There has been a lot of negative feeling amongst the Premier League managers towards the relevance of campaign, but slowly but surely players are realising they need to respect the referee as a professional. It’s going to take time, but the Respect campaign will make a difference.

How hard is it to control your temper when the crowd is egging you on?
Football is a passionate game and players have a tremendous desire to win – there’s no harm in that whatsoever. But there are occasions when you have to show dignity and respect.

It’s difficult to control your emotions, but players have to understand referees are only there to do the best job they can do.

Giving them stick only makes their job more difficult. Referees only get one chance to make a decision and any mistake they do make gets highlighted across the media.

We might not agree with their decisions, but if you look at the bigger picture and realise how hard their job is, we should try and support them as much as we can.

Would you like to see ex-players as referees?
It’s something that has been looked at before. Referees have often been criticised for their lack of understanding – how the game is played at the top level.

With their knowledge of the game, ex-players would have this understanding and I’d love to see them involved.

I don’t think you’ll see many ex-Premier League players turning to officiating after their playing days are over, but players from the lower leagues and non-league may want to go down the avenue of refereeing, especially if their playing career had been cut short.

The more referees we can attract to the game better. You can see on a Saturday and a Sunday morning the officials receive a lot of abuse, which puts people off. That’s why campaigns like Barclays’ ‘Get on with the Game’ are important.

Did you ever play Sunday League?
I never played Sunday League, but I played amateur football in Glasgow. It was a very good amateur league and I played for a club called Eastercraigs on a Saturday. I went from there to Dumbarton and then on to Everton.

Any tips for our Sunday League players?
The most important thing is to enjoy your football. I always say to people it’s not too late. My son plays in the League of Wales and I always tell him you never know who is watching.

Ian Wright progressed to the top level from Sunday League. It’s getting more and more difficult don’t get me wrong, but go out there enjoy yourself, work hard and respect the referee.

Any tips for playing with a hangover?
I’ve trained with a hangover a few times and it’s not easy. The best thing to do is run it out of your system.

I play like
Dean Ashton, maybe? More of an old-fashioned target man. That role is becoming more and more obsolete in the modern game.

In my day we played in pairs and formed partnerships, like Sharp and Gray and Dalglish and Rush, but you don’t really say that in today’s game. It’s changed an awful lot.

Other people say I play like
When I first started out I was a skinny left-winger – believe it or not – so very different to the player I turned out to be. I don’t think I modelled my game on anybody; I just tried to watch everyone and learn as much as I could. 

Best football achievement
I was fortunate enough to win the league a couple of times and the FA Cup, but winning the European Cup Winners Cup in 1985 was probably the highlight of my career. It was the first time Everton had won a European trophy.

Worst moment in football
Losing three FA Cup finals – it’s never an easy thing to do.

The best player in our team
Neville Southall. Not only was he the best player in the Everton team, he was the best goalkeeper in the world.

Team supported
Glasgow Rangers.

Football hero
He hates me saying this, but it was Andy Gray. I was fortunate enough to play with him later on in my career. I didn’t try to emulate him though, he was too daft! He was too brave for his own good.

Football villain
David O’Leary when he was at Arsenal was always difficult player to play against. He read the game so well.

Why I’m a Weekend Wonder
Football has been part of my life for so long. I love the fans. The passion from the supporters is incredible. They spend a lot of money to follow their team.

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