|Full name||Lee Stuart Sharpe|
|Date of birth||27 May 1971|
|Place of birth||Halesowen, England|
|Height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|1998–1999||→ Sampdoria (loan)||3||(0)|
|1999||→ Bradford City (loan)||9||(2)|
|2001||→ Portsmouth (loan)||17||(0)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Lee Stuart Sharpe (born 27 May 1971) is an English former professional footballer, sports television pundit and reality television personality, who as a player was predominantly a left winger from 1988 to 2004.
Sharpe joined Manchester United from Torquay United as a youngster in 1988, playing for the club up until 1996. He won a total of eight caps for England, but his later career failed to live up to its potential after leaving Manchester United in his mid-twenties. Sharpe moved to Leeds United in 1996, but persistent knee injuries kept him from making an impact on the squad, and he was loaned to Sampdoria at the start of the 1998–99 season. Another loan to Bradford City in March 1999 turned into a permanent deal at the end of the season. He stayed at Bradford for three seasons, but he gradually slipped down the league ladder, eventually moving to Iceland to play for Grindavík in 2003. He retired from professional football in 2003, but achieved renewed fame after a number of reality television appearances. He briefly returned to football in 2004, playing for Garforth Town, but his return was short-lived.
Sharpe, who was born in Halesowen, West Midlands, was an Aston Villa supporter, but began his career at Torquay United. However, in his first season with them, after only 16 games, Manchester United noted his potential and swooped to sign him in June 1988 for £200,000, a record fee at the time for a YTS player.
Sharpe made his debut for Manchester United on 24 September 1988 in a 2–0 win over West Ham United in the Football League First Division, aged 17. His first team chances increased in November with the departure of the club's first choice left winger Jesper Olsen, and were further enhanced when new signing Ralph Milne failed to live up to expectations. Sharpe ended the 1988–89 season with 22 league appearances to his name, although he failed to score and United finished a disappointing 11th in the league a year after finishing second. He played 30 games in all competitions that season.
The following season, Sharpe found the net for the first time in a United shirt, scoring in the 5–1 home win over Millwall on 16 September 1989. He managed 18 appearances in the league that season (and 20 in all competitions), but failed to make the squad for the FA Cup final which United won 1–0 against Crystal Palace in a replay after drawing 3–3 in the first match. Alex Ferguson had chosen new signing Danny Wallace as his first choice left winger for the 1989–90 season.
He played a key part in United's success in the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1990–91 scoring with a left foot pile-driver into the top corner in the home leg of the semi-final against Legia Warsaw (1–1). He also famously scored a hat-trick against Arsenal at Highbury in the League Cup fourth round on 28 November 1990, a match which United won 6–2. Sharpe himself cites this as one of the best memories in his footballing career. He was now United's first choice left winger ahead of Danny Wallace, although a new rival for the left wing position was emerging in the shape of highly promising 17-year-old Ryan Giggs.
Having established himself as a left winger, Sharpe earned a call up to the England squad just before his 20th birthday, although he was unable to replace John Barnes as first choice left winger. Unfortunately, he was then out of the game for long periods of time through injury and illness (he suffered from viral meningitis in the autumn of 1992) and when his fitness recovered, the form of Ryan Giggs meant he had normally to play out of position at left back (by now the preferred position for Denis Irwin) or on the right wing, competing for a place with Andrei Kanchelskis who had arrived in March 1991.
He did play in enough games to collect a Premier League title medal for the 1992–93 season, and added another in 1993–94 with 30 appearances (four as a substitute), and scoring nine league goals (11 in all competitions). He scored both of United's goals in their fourth league game of the season on 23 August 1993 as they beat Aston Villa 2–1 at Villa Park, following with an early goal in the 3–1 win at Southampton in the next game. He managed another double on 22 March 1994 in a 2–2 league draw at Arsenal, and came on as a substitute in the FA Cup final against Chelsea. United won the double of the Premier League title and FA Cup that season.
Sharpe is well remembered for his memorable goal against Barcelona during the 2–2 draw in the 1994–1995 Champions League season's group stage, when he spectacularly back-heeled a cross from Roy Keane into the corner of the net. He also got an assist in this game, crossing for Mark Hughes, who headed the first goal of the game.
1994–95 was a difficult season for United, with many players out for significant periods due to injury. Sharpe was one of them, as he missed a string of mid season games due to a fractured ankle, though he had more opportunities to play on the left wing as Ryan Giggs missed a quarter of the campaign due to injuries, and most of Sharpe's appearances came as a left back as the regular player in that position, Denis Irwin, spent most of the campaign playing on the right side of defence left vacant by a long absence by Paul Parker, though Irwin was back at left back towards the end of the season following the emergence of right-back Gary Neville.
United ended the season without a major trophy, finishing second to Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League as they failed to manage anything better than a 1–1 draw at West Ham on the final day of the season, and losing 1–0 to Everton in the FA Cup final.
By the start of the 1995–96, Andrei Kanchelskis had been sold to Everton and it seemed possible that Sharpe could establish himself as United's right winger – particularly when he scored twice for United in their 3–2 win over Everton on 9 September 1995.
With Ryan Giggs returning to fitness on the left wing, and Denis Irwin returning to left back following the emergence of Gary Neville as the club's regular right back, the right hand side of midfield seemed Sharpe's best opportunity of regular first team action. However, 20-year-old David Beckham made the first team breakthrough that season and left Sharpe with nothing like a guaranteed place in the first eleven, though he was selected in the squad for all but eight competitive games that season, during which United became the first English team to win the double twice. He still took to the field in 31 out of 38 Premier League games, scoring four goals. His first goal of the season came at Blackburn Rovers on 28 August, as a relatively strong United side recorded their third successive league win after being beaten by Aston Villa on the opening day. In their next game at Everton on 9 September, Sharpe scored twice as United achieved an impressive 3–2 win. His next (and final) league goal for United came on 10 February 1996 when he scored the only goal of the game against Blackburn Rovers, as United kept up the pressure on leaders Newcastle who had been 10 points ahead at Christmas. Sharpe also managed two FA Cup goals that season, the winner against Manchester City in the fifth round at Old Trafford on 18 February, and the second in the last minute of a 2–0 home win over Southampton in the quarter finals on 11 March. He was selected as a substitute in the 1–0 FA Cup final win over Liverpool on 11 May, but did not come onto the pitch, though he still picked up his second FA Cup winner's medal, which was ultimately the last major trophy of his career just before his 25th birthday. In total he played 265 games for Manchester United over eight years, scoring 36 goals.
After eight years at Old Trafford, he became Leeds United's joint record signing on 10 August 1996 when they paid £4.5million for his services, making him the last signing by manager Howard Wilkinson, who was sacked the following month to be succeeded by George Graham. Again his time at Leeds was beset by further injuries. He made 26 Premiership appearances in 1996–97, scoring five goals, but a pre-season knee injury ruled him out for the entire 1997–98 season and he was unable to regain his place in the team on recovery. In the autumn of 1998, Graham's successor David O'Leary loaned Sharpe to Italian Serie A strugglers Sampdoria, where he played under English head coach David Platt, but soon fell out of favour and in the New Year he returned to England.
He signed on loan for Bradford City in March 1999 and he helped in securing the club's promotion to the Premiership after 77 years outside the top division. He joined Bradford in a £250,000 deal during the summer and helped preserve the club's Premiership status in 1999–2000.
In 2000–01, Sharpe lost his place in the Bradford team and just before Christmas went on loan to Division One Portsmouth. He played 17 matches. He returned to Bradford during the 2001–02 season but when his contract expired at the end of the season he was given a free transfer.
Following a brief trial stay with Grimsby Town in the summer of 2002 he was snubbed a contract with the Mariners and he eventually signed for Exeter City. During his time at Exeter he scored once against Hull City.
He then moved to Grindavík in Iceland. In June 2003 he announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 32. Just before this, he was rumoured to be on the verge of taking over as player-manager at Bury in Division Three.
In February 2004, Sharpe made a brief return to football in the Kidderminster Sunday League with Hoobrook Crown before signing for Northern Counties East Premier League side Garforth Town the following summer.
In the early 1990s, Sharpe was part of a new direction in football that saw photogenic players like himself, Jamie Redknapp and Ryan Giggs emerge as merchandising and mass marketed "poster boys" of the game, and fronted many football magazine covers and featured in advertisements. By the mid-1990s, these players, some of whom had become known as Spice Boys, had become icons in football already, in an era when football stars had become idols on par with rock stars and pop stars. Sharpe was known for his lifestyle off the pitch as much as he had on it at the time, though these endorsement deals quieted down after he left Manchester United in 1996.
Since 2009, Sharpe has been involved with global football charity, Ambassadors in Sport. His first involvement came after a trip to South Africa and an unscheduled invite to visit an AIS Hope Academy in a South African Prison. Since then he has been involved at different levels with AIS, including Cycle for Hope, a 6-month cycle through Africa which Sharpe was involved in publicity and also took part in the last leg.
Sharpe has also developed a career in reality television. He appeared as a competitor in the 2005, ITV television show Celebrity Wrestling, under the name "Sharpe Shooter". He is also known though for appearing in Celebrity Love Island. During his time on the Island Sharpe courted the attentions of many of the show's ladies, most notably TV presenter Jayne Middlemiss, who confessed to "never having felt like this before about someone", but Sharpe eventually dated Abi Titmuss.
In 2007 Sharpe appeared as a contestant in ITV's Dancing on Ice. He was eliminated from the competition on 3 March 2007. He was to also appear in ITV's popular TV soap Coronation Street as an extra in the fictional pub "The Rovers Return" as a working class taxi driver from Manchester.
Sharpe, alongside former Bucks Fizz singer Cheryl Baker, currently fronts a London Underground advertising campaign for Nourkrin, a baldness treatment. He is billed as "Of Celebrity Love Island fame!"
In 2008, Sharpe starred in Dec's team on Ant versus Dec, on Saturday Night Takeaway ITV1. Sharpe also starred as the celebrity 'hider' in an episode of the CBBC show Hider in the House. He also appeared in the 2008 television series Superstars on Channel Five.
After retirement in 2004 and 2006, Sharpe became a football pundit for ESPN Star in Singapore in Asia, and together with Les Ferdinand, is a celebrity host on the game show "Kickoff" where he is known as "Sharpey". Sharpe was previously a pundit on BBC's Match of the Day 2 and "Football Focus", and during the 2006 World Cup presented a cup blog from Germany with video clips and photos for Yahoo. Sharpe appeared in one episode of the footballing drama Dream Team.
On 25 August 2005 Sharpe's autobiography My Idea of Fun was published, describing his time as a footballer and his resulting celebrity status
- Smyth, Rob (24 September 2004). "Lee Sharpe". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
- Brewin, John (8 May 2009). "From Robbo v Diego to Ronaldo v Messi". ESPN Soccernet. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
- "Exeter 3–1 Hull". BBC. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
- "'Lords of the Ring' to be Produced by Screentime ShinAwil for RTÉ". Irish Film and Television Network. 27 July 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009.