SHERIDAN DICTATES: LEEDS UNITED NOSTALGIA

He wore the white shirt

Kevin Sharp

The latest article in a feature where I speak to ex Leeds players about their time at Elland Road.

A member of the FA Youth Cup winning side in 1993, Kevin Sharp was seen as one for the future at Elland Road but unfortunately things didn’t go to plan for the youngster recruited from France.

Kevin was born in Canada in September 1974 but when he was young his parents moved back to England. It was in the Blackpool league whilst playing for Poulton le Fylde that he first had the opportunity to display his promising talents before moving on to Blackpool Town and spending a couple of years at the FA National School of Excellence in Lilleshall.

Sharp represented his country at several levels as a junior and it was whilst playing for England Schoolboys against France at Wembley that he impressed watching scouts:

“From that England squad there were only Jamie Forrester and myself that were not tied to a club. The French side Auxerre, who had some of their young players in the national team, had scouts at the game and after playing well, I was invited over to train with them.

“Auxerre were an up and coming club who were owned and managed by the legendary Guy Roux. The facilities were first class and they boasted the first academy in European football which had benefited them greatly as the majority of the first team had progressed through the ranks.”

Sharp made a few appearances in the first team but as much as he had enjoyed his time in France, he was homesick and was looking to return to England and he knew that the opportunity was there,

“Everton and Leeds United had both expressed interest in me and I spent a week at Goodison Park. Howard Kendall wanted to sign me but they were unable to agree a fee with Auxerre.

“I was then invited by Paul Hart to spend a week at Leeds. I loved it there and the fact that I knew Mark Tinkler and Noel Whelan from my time with England youth made it easier to settle in.

“Leeds United made me feel wanted and I was selected to make my debut for the reserves against Sheffield Wednesday. The Leeds line up included players like Mervyn Day, David Wetherall, Steve Hodge, Scott Sellars, David Rocastle, Imre Varadi and Lee Chapman. It was an amazing experience to play alongside those players.”

Wilkinson and the Leeds staff were aware of Everton’s interest and to avoid the Merseyside club snapping up their target, Sharp was taken away with the first team:

“Leeds were playing the European Cup ‘replay’ against German side VFB Stuttgart in Barcelona’s Nou Camp and Wilkinson told me I would be travelling with the squad. Although I knew I wouldn’t be playing, it was a great experience. I knew that I wanted to be at Elland Road and a deal was done very quickly.”

The 1992-93 season was the first year of the newly formed FA Premier League. Leeds United started it with a victory over Wimbledon in August but the campaign quickly became one to forget. However, the youth team reached the final of the FA Youth Cup and went on to beat Manchester United over two legs.

Before that final, Kevin Sharp had made his first team debut and he was one of five players from that successful youth team that played for the senior side that season:

“My debut came on the 17th of April 1993 at home to Crystal Palace. I had been playing well for the reserves and juniors and was pleased to get my chance. The game was a bit of a blur but I did well enough to keep my place in the side for the next three games.”

Sharp was left out of the side for the final game, away at Coventry, as the Youth Cup Final 1st leg was played just two days later and those two victories provided memories that he saviours:

“It was a great achievement. Noel Whelan and Jamie Forrester were the deadliest strike partnership around at that level and with those two up front we always had a chance. We dominated them in key areas for large parts of both legs and thoroughly deserved to win the trophy.

“A lot of the Leeds lads knew a lot of their players and in the earlier rounds they would come and watch us and we would go and watch them. We always had a feeling that we would meet in the final.”

Having made the breakthrough into the first team, Sharp was hoping for big things in the 1993-94 season but an injury curtailed his progress:

“I was suffering with a groin problem and I should have had an operation. Instead, I tried to continue with the help of injections. It caught up with me and I missed a large chunk of pre season and did not get into the side until December when I started in a 3-2 win over Manchester City.”

Sharp featured in 10 Premier League games during a season in which Leeds performed much better than they had done the previous campaign but the following two seasons were ones of frustration for the Canadian born youngster:

“I made just two substitute appearances in the 94-95 season and one in 1995-96 and part of the problem was that Wilkinson saw me as a left full-back. However, with Tony Dorigo in the side it was always going to be difficult for me to make the breakthrough.

“Wilkinson had brought in experienced players such as Nigel Worthington, John Pemberton, Paul Beesley and Richard Jobson. It was almost as though he had lost his faith in the youngsters.

“I was in the final year of my contract and I approached the manager about my future. He made it clear that I wasn’t in his plans and I knew that I had to move on.”

Looking back Sharp admits that he should have shown a bit more maturity but a move soon materialised and he was on his way to Wigan Athletic who themselves were at the start of a long journey that would take them to the Premier League:

“I was the first piece of the jigsaw. Dave Whelan said in the press conference when I signed that he had a 10 year plan to take Wigan up to the top flight and fair play to him, he did.

“My time at Wigan was brilliant and I hold some fond memories”.

After leaving Wigan in 2001, Sharp played for Wrexham, Huddersfield Town, Scunthorpe United and Shrewsbury Town before finishing his career at Scottish club, Hamilton Academicals.

He went on to coach at Northwich Victoria (with Neil Redfearn) and Harrogate Town. These days, Kevin works for First E11even Sports Management as a Football Consultant and he enjoys the works he is doing.

Looking back on his time playing for the Champions of England in 1993, Kevin Sharp loved the majority of his time at Elland Road and is full of praise for the supporters,

“The Leeds fans are different class, they were always behind us everywhere we went and it was a pleasure to play for them.”

Thank you to Kevin Sharp for giving me his time and the opportunity to write this article.

 

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