By Christopher KL Lau
Mention the name Lee Sharpe and football fans all around the world will reminisce about flamboyant celebrations, spectacular goals and one of the finest wingers in Manchester United history. In a spectacular career which has seen him become both a Manchester United legend and cult hero as well as pull on England national jersey with pride, Lee Sharpe was one of the mainstays of the early years of Alex Ferguson’s tenure at Manchester United when a special group of players laid the foundations for unparalleled success on and off the field as Manchester United grew from a slumbering giant into a global phenomenon.
Seemingly thrust from obscurity at Torquay, a young and gifted Lee Sharpe quickly found his feet and never looked back. Sharpe became an Old Trafford favorite and never seemed overawed as his audience transformed from a few thousand to a global audience week in and week out. Some would say he truly announced his arrival on November 28th, 1990, when as a fresh faced twenty year old, he scored a breath-taking and wondrous hat-trick against the mighty Arsenal at Highbury; that night Lee Sharpe began to live the dream and the rest of the world began to live it with him as his profile grew; the Lee Sharpe juggernaut had made a spectacular entrance onto the world stage and the rest as they say is history.
Sharpe’s electrifying runs and crucial goals all helped to launch Manchester United into an era of dominance and Sharpe went onto win Premier League Titles, FA Cups, the League Cup, Community Shields and the European Cup Winners Cup; the latter against the mighty Barcelona which he believes served as the catalyst and confidence booster which would alleviate the Red Devils to the next level.
Lee Sharpe was recently in Hong Kong and played in the EPL All-Stars match against a Hong Kong legends team.
In an exclusive interview with Christopher KL Lau of offside.hk, Lee Sharpe discusses football in China, his media career and THAT game against Arsenal.
Do you see China as the next potential growth area in terms of football development and fan interest?
Lee Sharpe: Having been to China recently I have no doubt it’s the next potential growth area for all sports, not only football. I couldn’t get over the sheer size of the place and with a population that big and a love and passion for the game then I’m sure premier league clubs will already have scouts over there or will do in the near future looking for future stars and as for the fan base, I think clubs know the potential China has, pre season trips and promotional games are happening already.
What do you think it would it take for populous nations like China to truly excel on the international stage?
Lee Sharpe: China has to invest in the kids to be successful in the future, I’d say good coach’s, good facilities and good coverage of football so kids aspire to be footballers and want to succeed for their national team. That worked for me.
Was your hat-trick against Arsenal in the league cup early on in your career still one of the highlights of your playing time? Do you replay it in your mind?
Lee Sharpe: The hatrick at Highbury is certainly one of my favourite memories, although, every goal I scored was a special memory, I don’t really run it through my head but I do smile every time I see it played on the screen. I have a lot of special memories, it would be hard to pick one as my favourite.
You are quite active in media work and punditry, will you continue down this course in terms of career?
Lee Sharpe: I am not really sure where my career will take me, I’ve certainly been very fortunate in life so far with the career I’ve had and the opportunities that has led me to, I try to keep an open mind and see where that takes me. I love the Far East and eastern philosophy and would love to spend more time in that part of the world at some stage but for now I’m happy doing what I’m doing and working on getting my golf handicap down to scratch!! That’s the big challenge for now.
Photos by WOL Borthwick, Ann Kristine Sen, Christopher KL Lau