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Everton v Oldham FA Cup clash revives bad memories for Blues hero Graeme Sharp

Jan 4 2008 by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo


EVERTON entertain Oldham in the FA Cup tomorrow.


But if Goodison fans experience a shiver of apprehension when they see the name Uriah Rennie in charge of the fixture, Blues legend Graeme Sharp has a message for them: “If you think referees are bad today, they were just as bad when I was playing!”


Now the Everton fans’ liaison officer, Blues legend Sharp was the spearhead of the last Everton team to face Oldham in the FA Cup, when the clubs collided in a pulsating 1990 tie.


And the identity of the man in charge of the first two games of a titanic trilogy is etched into his memory.


Even now Sharp doesn’t just blame the errant official for an FA Cup upset, he believes he played a significant part in Colin Harvey’s managerial tenure coming to a premature end.


“Tony Ward,” he declared, with a knowing sigh. “I ended up on a disrepute charge because of his performance.


“I remember it clearly. We were winning 2-0 and cruising on the plastic, then he gave a ridiculous penalty decision against us.


“Roger Palmer was the striker involved, and when I went to Oldham a few years later he was still laughing about it with me.


“We were never in any danger, but that gave them a toehold back into the game. They came back to draw 2-2 and I was fuming afterwards.


“I had a few choice words with the referee and that got me into trouble, but the decisions were significant.


“Colin Harvey was our manager and he was coming under increasing pressure at that time. Who knows what difference an FA Cup run might have made?”


In the event it was Oldham who marched on to the semi-finals that season, after eventually triumphing in a fifth round second replay against the Blues – and yet more controversy.


The FA, in their infinite wisdom, used to allow the same referees to take charge of replays even if the original cup tie had proved controversial.


It was a decision which backfired in 1990.


Just four days after their 2-2 draw at Boundary Park, Tony Ward took charge of the replay at Goodison Park, and the night proved even more eventful than the first clash.


Everton’s Norman Whiteside was sent off for the first time in his career, six players were booked and Everton had to rely on a Kevin Sheedy penalty three minutes from the end of extra-time to salvage a second replay.


Sharp’s comments at the time were pointed.


“Thirty-six thousand people can’t be wrong,” he said. “They saw his performance tonight and it was poor, very poor for a game of this stature.


“He had to get control of it and if he lets it slip it is his fault.”


Eighteen years on and Sharp remembers other events surrounding that night.


“Some of the local press lads rang me the next day and when you’re involved in a match as heated as that you maybe don’t appreciate some of the things that are going on around you.


“But one of the press men told me he had been watching games at Goodison Park for more than 30 years and had never seen an Everton team play as badly as that. He said it was disgraceful.


“That surprised me, but it probably helped accelerate Colin’s sacking.”


Everton lost the toss for choice of venue and were forced to return to Oldham’s dreaded plastic pitch, but at least the FA appointed the highly regarded Roger Milford as referee on this occasion.


It didn’t help the Blues, who took the lead through Tony Cottee, but then gave up a dreadful equaliser through a sloppy Neil McDonald back pass and then went out to yet another penalty kick, this time however it was uncontested.


The modern Oldham are currently on an incredible run of success away from home – seven successive victories culminating in last weekend’s win at Leeds when they became the first visiting team to win at Elland Road this season.


But Sharp doesn’t see the class of ’08 suffering the same kind of problems his team experienced 18 years ago.


“That Oldham team which Joe Royle managed was a very good side and actually came up into the top flight soon after.


“They also played on the plastic pitch which everyone hated.


“But the gap between the Premier League and League One today is massive and Everton must fancy their chances of getting the job done at the first time of asking.


“What they don’t want to do is have a replay up at Boundary Park in January!


“I played there after I left Everton and managed there, so I know just how bleak it can be.


“Everton don’t want to be going up there if they can help it.”


Tickets are still available for tomorrow’s third round FA Cup tie, priced at just £20 for adults and £10 for concessions.


Visit the Park End box office or ring 0870 442 1878 for further selling details.

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What an absolute :censored:. It makes me so glad that we beat them in 08. He clearly has a bee in his bonnet about us and sounded desperate for Everton to do us.


And that game at Goodison? Whiteside was fully deserved of his red card. Everton were filthy that evening and basically tried to bully and kick us off the pitch.


“I played there after I left Everton and managed there, so I know just how bleak it can be.


It was even bleaker for us, you utter :censored:.

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