Advantages Joyous read for a footy biog
Disadvantages More juice please
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Alex Ferguson may have been the bricks and mortar of the Manchester United success story, and Mark Robbins the trigger; but it was all smiling Lee Sharpe who was the La chispa` (the spark of magic) that ignited the new dynasty with passion, intensity and sex appeal .Football was going that way, anyway, in the early nineties with the inception of the Premiership,and Sharpey was determined to be leading that revolution witha smile, United now the proud owners of title number nine in the last 14 seasons for Sir Alex.Lee was one of the last guys to play the game with a smile on his face (much to Ferguson’s ire) and the wonderful photo on the books dust cover of Sharpey using the flag stick as a microphone stand reminds us of a day long past in the top levels of professional sport. He may have liked the ladies more than the training but Sharpey was a very good footballer and entertaining to boot. And as Man United fan I’m duty bound to read every book connected to the club.
He was also the man that bought the word ‘hairdryer’ to the nation’s conscious ,a full on Alex Ferguson red faced rant inches from your eyebrows and sweating brow. In fact Lees unhappiest memory of his eight years at Old Trafford was when, after scoring his maiden hatrick in a thrilling 6-2 win at Highbury in the League Cup, with likewise celebration, was given the full hairdryer treatment on the team bus after Alex had seen the jigs and jiggles on the match tape in the Arsenal mangers office during a quick after match glass of wine. To this day Lee is confused why Fergie would want to put a player down for such heroics, a concurrent niggle throughout the book. He makes the valid point that he and many other young players were just that and needed encouragement not bollockings. Sharpe also makes the point that off all the youth that has ever come through at Old Trafford via Fergies famous policy very few players come from outside Manchester, he and Beck’s the exception to the rule. From all the books I have read on my beloved Man United it seems Alex detest posers and southerners and life should be as staid and tough as his West Glasgow dockland upbringing to get any sort of success and meaning in life.A brief over view.
Born to a well meaning and comfortably well off Brummie family, it was Lee’s granddad and Nana that he would spend the best time with him in his youth, the old boy once dressing little Lee as a dwarf to sneak him into the boozers after work.
Ready to marry his childhood sweetheart as soon as it was legal, Lee’s first move in pro football was to Torqay of all places, a team that had just managed to stay in the league with a last minute goal in the first ever relegation season of 86-87, his devastating pace and ability to get a cross in with his sweet left foot the big attraction that could keep them up the following season. Amazingly, after just six games in Cornwall, Manchester United came in for him for £180,000; Cyril Knowles, the Torquay boss only too keen to get the kid away from aging full-backs heading down the league ladder that would hack the talent out of him very very quickly. Alex Ferguson would actually drive down to the town from Manchester with assistant Archie Knox to secure the deal, and then pick him up from Manchester station when the deal went through. This was the famous father figure side of Fergie.
It’s interesting to see just how much of a driving force Bryan Robson was at the club, even negotiating player’s contracts with Martin Edwards, including Giggs and Sharpey’s deals. There are nice stories in the book were the senior players were encouraged to go along to youth and second team matches to cheer on the lads and get to know those young players coming up, even though it was probably just an excuse to have a few more beers after the games.Of that legendary youth, Sharpe’s first encounter with the notoriously straight-laced Neville brothers was seeing Gary practicing his throw-in’s against the canteen wall whilst everyone else tucked into their grub. A shy 12 year old Beck’s, encouraged even at then at that age to hang around the team he loved, earns a cute quote in the book, gauchely mumbling that ‘Sharpey is a legend!
Sharpey wasn’t a big drinker, and soon the talk of the town after his dazzling early performances for United, especially with the girls. His mom had already set up a fan club for him and he was soon perfecting his goal celebrations in the hall of his new house, an abode he somehow convinced Ferguson he needed so to live with his childhood sweetheart Debbie, the girl he wanted to soon marry, a rare escape from the traditional Salford digs that ringed the Cliff training ground and the lapidary grim accommodation for Fergies fledglings, which Lee still was. In some ways Sharpey was a Beck’s prototype and if he had married Debbie it could have been so different, although Lee & Debs didn’t quite have the same ring as ‘Posh n Beck’s’.Alas, after his continuing antics and flash demeanor, Fergie made him sell the house and send the poor girl home; such was his power over all club matters. Can you imagine that happening today? But United were about to become the new Liverpool, Arsenal signaling the shift in power in British soccer by winning the title with that infamous late goal by Michael Thomas at Anfield in 89. The nineties were to be Uniteds, and the likes of Sharpe, Giggs, Keane and Scholes would be the driving force. But by then Lee had been labeled a party animal by his boss and hairdryers would be a regular occurrence, Lee memorably dragged out of a party in his underpants when Alex, purple faced, turned up at their digs after yet another rule break. Ferguson was empire building and only dedicated winners could come along for the ride, something Sharpey wasn’t in the game for.
England came calling in 91, the hapless Graham Taylor capping the dazzling winger, England also captained by Robbo. The following season bought the European Cup Winners Cup success, following on from that all important FA Cup Final win in 91, Mark Robbins critical goal saving Fergies job from the boozers. Again, what ever happened to Mark Robbins?
After blowing the championship to Leeds in 92, Sharpe would miss out on most of the following seasons heroics with glandular fever, United winning their first (now the premiership title) in twenty something years. This was also the season when Ryan Giggs arrived on the left wing; some say the beginning of the end for Sharpey, pushed back to left–back, and then later, center midfield alongside Keane, his big mukka, a surprising friendship blossoming.
As Lee was moved around the team, and then back to the bench as the next team was born that would win the treble, he decided to make a move away from the club who had risked so much, byplucking from obscurity at Torquay to something similar at Leeds United. Lee was no longer a star at United and the attention seeking antics increasingly ignored, Giggs picking up the mantle of the Old Trafford wonder boy with the ladies. Although Sharpey tries to convince us throughout this book that it was never about the money and trophies, but the crack, it was a dumb move in hindsight to walk away from as good as it gets at Old Trafford.Howard Wilkinson would be the man who picked up Sharpe’s big wages, the star signed to secure good season ticket sales. But within 5 weeks George Graham had taken over with the club sitting tenth, announcing to the team that we will “beat relegation”, rather than push for Europe, the club as miserable and negative place to be under the ex Arsenal manger as ever, not exactly the type of guy to inspire Sharpy, the ex Man United winger soon being moved around the team again, Graham bizarrely playing Liverpool’s legendary goal scorer Ian Rush at fullback, a unique constructed dismissal to lighten the ever growing wage bill under chairman Risdale. Sharp would be level top scorer with Brian Deane with five meager goals in the final Graham year. With O’Leary in, Sharpe would never be picked to play for Leeds again, the genially Irishman’s bizarre training ground routines getting particular critic in the book. One of the gems would see players asked to volley the ball off the top of road cones!
Bradford would take him on loan on those silly Leeds wages and the amble down the mountain would become an uncontrollable tumble, helping to keep Bradford up in the premiership before their inevitable relegation, a snapped cruciate ligament a portent that he was getting old. But Bradford, too, were wage heavy, Benito Carbone on that legendary 40k a week, a sign of the silliness to come in the new Premier League TV age. With the startling statistic that 9/10 or professional footballers get divorced with in three years of retiring the unmarried Sharpe at least had that disappointment not to come, a media career now beckoning for the genial and handsome Brummie.Any good…
As a United fan I enjoyed the book, perhaps a book aimed at fans of the club. You remember all the goals, you relive the trophies. I never really knew the guy until he started appearing on TV and after his performance on the dire Celebrity Love Island it was clearly he wasn’t just another over paid footballer, his genuinely articulate and cheeky punditry turns on Match of the Day 2 revealing a likeable guy. He is that typical laid back Brummie we all know and admire.The book is an easy read with no long words or angry rants, just a cheeky chappy telling his footballing story. Some of the stuff on Keane and Fergie is revealing and the honesty shines through, more detail on some of the more notorious Manchester United tabloid stories fleshed out, including a confession that he never took drugs, just the occasional joint. In fact the more you read the book the more you like the guy, perhaps the real point of the autobiography from a guy that just wants to be loved and admired, not feted and berated.
Summary: More glory...
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