'I played as a fan. I did the stupid celebrations'
Lee Sharpe admits he had a difficult relationship at times with former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson but feels his extroverted personality would have been encouraged in today's game.
The left-winger was popular with the fans after signing from Torquay United and providing blistering pace and flair down his flank. His celebrations were often pre-planned and joyous but these sometimes attracted the ire of his boss.
Nonetheless, Sharpe joined MUTV's Group Chat on Wednesday, alongside Wes Brown, David May, Ben Thornley and Danny Webber, and stressed that he would not change anything and would have fitted in pretty well into the modern game.
“I think anyone that’s played in the past would be able to play in it now," he said. “You’d adapt. The diet and the science and the training would be slightly different, it’s just the social side and the going out after. I think because there are so many foreigners – people forget we were a predominantly British team, with British mentality and customs, so we used to go out together. I don’t think that happens as much now because of the number of foreigners in the team and different cultures.
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"I think you adapt," he reiterated. "Once you know you have the ability to play in that league, which we all have done, I think we could have all played now. It’s just different isn’t it? It’s a different game. I was growing up watching Aston Villa in the 1980s and you saw players when you went out.
“I think my whole thing was I was a fan. I played as a fan. I did the stupid celebrations, I always had an attachment with the fans. The manager wasn’t so keen, to be honest! I think, as well, the way things are sold on social media and players' profiles are raised on social media, it would have been more encouraged; to do the celebrations with the fans and enjoying myself, rather than to stop doing it and be more straight-laced.
“One of the chats I was on the other night, I was saying: sport, you’ve got to play it like you would as a kid. That doesn’t mean that you’ve got to mess around, that means you focus and you’re intent on winning. You still need that creativity, that freedom of the mind to produce the skillset that you’ve got. I was always nervous before a game and I had to calm myself down. To play well, I had to be relaxed and in a smiley frame of mine. To get in that with the manager breathing down your neck all the time was quite difficult. That’s just how I saw the game.”
Sharpe, now 48, called his autobiography 'My Kind of Fun' and also owned a pub in Yorkshire after retiring.
He concedes his joie de vivre sometimes upset Sir Alex but the fact is the 1990/91 Young Player of the Year won three Premier League titles, two FA Cups, the League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup during his successful stint with the Reds.
"It [the relationship] got quite difficult in the fact that he thought I didn’t take the game seriously enough," the ex-England international said. "Anyone can tell you as a player the worst thing that can happen is you have a bad game and you read your name in the paper the next day and you get 4/10.
“Nobody wants that, they want to be the best you can be. He had a go at my performances, my haircuts, my friends, my clothes, my car. Anything that he could see about me, he had a go at. In the end, I started pushing back. He even had a go at me when I played well. I’d scored winners and he’d have a go at the celebration. In the end, I thought if you’re going to have a go when I play well and when I play badly, what’s the point of me listening? I’ll do what I want and you can have a go at me, however you choose. So crack on that way."
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