Derby Heroes: Graeme Sharp
The series continues with the Club's post-war leading goalscorer.
There aren’t many more worthy candidates in our ‘derby heroes’ series than Graeme Sharp.
The Scot netted on seven occasions in three different competitions against our neighbours, including ‘that’ goal to end a 14-year wait for a win at Anfield.
Most memorable moment: A regular on the scoresheet in derbies, Sharp’s most memorable goal came at Anfield in October 1984. He controlled exquisitely, took the ball around Mark Lawrenson and smashed home from 25 yards. The strike sparked scenes of jubilation among Blues around the ground, with a number of fans invading the pitch to celebrate with Sharp.
Sharp made 447 appearances during a fruitful 11-year spell with the Blues.
He ensured his name would be forever remembered at Goodison by scoring 159 goals on the way to winning two league titles, one FA Cup and one European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Originally signed by Gordon Lee for £120,000 in 1980, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Sharp who initially struggled to establish himself as a first-team regular during his maiden season.
The appointment of Howard Kendall sparked Sharp’s Everton career into life, with the Scot repaying the manager’s faith with 15 goals in 29 league games. His record in front of goal continued to flourish over the next nine years.
Sharp was eventually sold to Oldham Athletic for £500,000 in 1991, but has remained close to Everton – he is currently the the Club's fans’ liaison officer and a regular radio pundit on Blues’ fixtures up and down the country.
In 2004, as part of the Club’s 125-year anniversary celebrations, fans selected Sharp in the ‘Greatest Ever Everton Team’.
Sharp remains the Club’s record goalscorer post-Second World War – his record of 159 goals for Everton is only bettered by the late, great Dixie Dean.
Sharp finished as Everton’s top goalscorer on four occasions - in 1981/82, 82/83, 84/85 and 87/88 – and a fine example of his predatory instincts came during a win at Anfield in 1984 when he netted the goal that secured all three points for the Blues and one which later won the Club’s goal of the season accolade.
His match-winning contribution ended a 14-year wait without a victory at Anfield and also set Everton on their way to an eighth league title – breezing past their nearest rivals Liverpool who finished 13 points behind their Mersey neighbours.
While Sharp’s ability in the penalty box was unquestionable, his work in creating goals for his teammates was perhaps, at times, overlooked.
Strikers such as Gary Lineker, Andy Gray and Adrian Heath all enjoyed successful spells with Everton after forming prosperous partnerships with Sharp.
Lineker said: “Graeme is certainly right up there with the best I’ve played with. He had good close control, he was powerful and if you add unselfishness and a willingness to work hard, then you’ve got a tremendous centre-forward.”
Sharp made a total of 12 appearances for Scotland, notching one international goal in the process.
His all-too-brief international career peaked with a goal against Malta – but a trip to Mexico for the 1986 World Cup ended in disappointment.
After an impressive campaign with Everton, Sir Alex Ferguson, who was manager at the time, favoured other options up front. This restricted Sharp to just one appearance and resigned Scotland to an early exit from the tournament.
NO DERBY DOUBTS
Sharp grew up surrounded by the intense rivalry between Glasgow Rangers and Celtic. His reservations of whether or not the Merseyside derby could compare were soon erased ahead of his first taste of the fixture in 1982.
“The build-up was unbelievable,” Sharp recalled. “Despite the warnings from the local lads, the demand for tickets took me completely by surprise.
"I recall sitting in the dressing room at Goodison feeling nice and relaxed and looking forward to my first taste of it. But, as we walked up to the tunnel and out onto the pitch, the noise that reverberated around the stadium nearly knocked me off my feet. It was absolutely incredible.
“We were playing in front of 51,000 – by far the biggest gate I’d played in front of. For the first 10 minutes or so, I literally couldn’t hear any of the players such was the volume in the terraces.”