The back of the Main Stand at Goodison Park is a sight to behold. From end to end, running the length of the pitch, a gigantic pictorial tribute to the men who set the standards.
Alex Young, ‘The Golden Vision’ as he was known, begins the sequence. To his right, follow Dave Hickson, Bob Latchford and Dixie Dean before Joe Royle completes the line. The image that really catches your eye, however, is the man we’ve yet to name: Graeme Sharp.
Positioned between Dean and Royle is Sharp with the ball to his left foot, moving elegantly towards goal. No matter how many times you’ve visited Goodison, something about it always makes you stand and stare – the colors, the scale and the majesty. It’s a moment in time.
What a player Sharp was: He gave Everton 11 years after leaving Dumbarton in 1980 for £120,000, scoring 159 times in 446 appearances and providing the foil for big partnerships with Andy Gray, Adrian Heath and Gary Lineker, carrying the brunt of the No. 9 Jersey.
Only the incomparable Dean can better the tally of the proud Scotsman, who took a stupendous leap and cannon – think back to the volley that settled the Merseyside Derby at Anfield in October 1984. His place in history is assured.
Graeme Sharp has not set foot in Goodison Park since losing to Brighton in January
It’s a sad story for an iconic player who painted a mural on the side of Goodison Park
Sharp (back row, fourth from left) is arguably the club’s greatest living player – he played a crucial role in their 1980s success
Over the past five months, however, looking at the image has left deep sadness. Sharp, who won two league titles, scoring the opening goal against Watford in the 1984 FA Cup final and also winning 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 is to Manchester United and Mike Summerbee is to Manchester City: a statesman who represented the club around the world with dignity and pride.
Can you imagine any of these men not being able to set foot in the stadiums they once dreamed of?
Yet that is the situation Sharp, now 62, currently finds himself in. The last time he attended a game at Goodison was on January 3, when Everton were sacked by Brighton losing 4-1. It was a feverish night, with protests against the board.
On the day of the next home game, against Southampton on January 14, Everton issued a statement to say they had received security advice that it was not safe for board members to attend the game and that it was “deeply sad”. situation.
The previous evening, a video had been posted on social media by a group of fans, lined up on Goodison Road with banners. Among the barbs aimed at Chairman Bill Kenwright and major shareholder Farhad Moshiri was a banner with two words that inflicted the deepest cut of all.
‘Sharp Out’ he read.
What made this all the more surprising was that the person holding it was positioned directly below the image that adorns the main stand as a tribute to Sharp. Within the club, there was revulsion that he had been targeted.
Violent protests marked much of Everton’s season – including calls for Sharp to leave
Sharp had been appointed to an unpaid, non-executive position on the board on January 5, 2022, describing it as “one of the highest honors of all.” He was part of the club’s furniture, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005 before being named ambassador and then president for life of the players. He added: “This club is in my blood. I take my role as goalkeeper for our great club very seriously.
These words were not hollow. Sharp had always been a regular visitor to Finch Farm, the club’s training base. He would be there, offering advice and encouragement to players, if needed, 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 desperately wanted him to succeed. The esteem in which Lampard held him, meanwhile, was undeniable. He couldn’t talk about himself any higher.
Critics wondered what influence Sharp really had behind the scenes, given that decisions were ultimately made by Farhad Moshiri or Bill Kenwright, but in a club where chaos often reigns, he would offer a vision designed to challenge and question .
There were times when there was a rush to quickly reward players with new contracts, but he always advised that it was not necessary to commit large sums to people who still had things. to prove. He had played at the top and knew what was needed to get there.
Everton’s best interests have always been in his heart. He would be proud to represent the club at any function, he would speak with passion and would also have a gleam in his eye as he took part in debates with the team’s fans across Stanley Park.
Discontent and anger directed at Farhad Moshiri spread to other board members
Unfortunately, that glow is gone. Sharp, a modest man who has never wallowed in nostalgia or exhibited memories of his playing career back home, is deeply hurt at not having been able to watch Everton since January 21 at the London Stadium. His wife Anne-Marie – the two are proud grandparents – is inconsolable at the criticism.
Who can blame her? Sharp hasn’t visited Finch Farm recently, he won’t be going to social situations where there’s a chance a fan with a grievance against the board will appear and there’s the very real possibility that he may return never at Goodison. What a miserable situation this is.
They sing in Gwladys Street about ‘if you know your story’ but it’s clear that some of those shouting no – having a grievance with Moshiri and Kenwright is one thing, making a club legend undesirable at the place that should be his home is unforgivable.
For all that imagery on the Main Stand is magnificent, a reminder of who he is and what he was, Graeme Sharp’s presence at Goodison Park shouldn’t be in image form. Instead, the empty seat that was his in the directors’ box is the emblem of a sad and desolate history.