A supremely talented sportsman, Jack Sharp (1878-1938) achieved international honours in two sporting arenas. Not only did he play football for England, but he earned three Test caps and scored a century against Australia in 1909 in cricket.
Born in Hereford in 1878, a 20-year-old Jack Sharp was one of the latest 'sparks' to have been spotted by Villa whilst he was playing for Hereford Thistle. In just a season and a half with Villa, this youngster had accumulated 23 league games and a very high return of 15 goals. What appears to have been the reason for letting him go was that Villa found him too small as a striker. By 1899 he had gone to Everton - in company with Bertram, his brother, who seems to have followed Jack's career everywhere. But at Everton he appears to have been converted into a winger of extraordinary ability! Over the ensuing Edwardian era, Jack Sharp became a household name, and is recorded as a legend in Everton's history. He was nicknamed 'The Pocket Hercules' by a journalist at the time, the term not only describes Sharp’s skill but his small stature.
While at Everton he made 342 appearances and scored 80 goals. Everton has recognised his exceptional sportsmanship by making him one of the club’s 10 Millennium Giants - the club’s greatest footballers. Playing mainly on the wing, Sharp quickly became known for his lightening play and goal scoring ability. Sharp’s fame was an early national sporting phenomenon. In the days before television and sponsorship deals, his popularity was measured by the number of times his picture appeared on cigarette cards. A selection of 14 different cards were created bearing his portraits. Although he was one of the first, he wasn’t the only man in sporting history to play professionally across two sporting fields. In later years Dennis Compton achieved a similar feat by playing football and cricket for England. During his heyday, Brylcream spotted Compton and made him one the first sports stars to be used as the face a product brand.
Sharp was an apt name for a winger of breathtaking brilliance, who combined impeccable sportsmanship with his outstanding talents in two sporting fields. Each of Everton's 10 Millennium Giants were leading figures in the world of association football.
A lightning fast sprinter, he possessed the ability to flight pinpoint centres onto the head of Everton's marauding centre-forward of the day, Sandy Young, or cut inside his full-back to unleash shots of fierce power.
In the days when a sports star's popularity was measured by the number of times his portrait appeared on cigarette cards, Jack Sharp had 14 different cards created for him. Only two Evertonians could boast more - Dixie Dean, the most celebrated player in the League, and Harry Makepeace, who followed Sharp as an England international at football and cricket. Renowned as much for his sportsmanship and fair play as his wing wizardry, Sharp's career almost perfectly encompassed the first decade of the 20th century.
He made his debut on the opening day of the 1899-1900 campaign - and ended his Everton career on the final day of the 1909-10 season. His career had threatened to become a series of near misses - after three runners-up spots in the First Division Championship and an FA Cup Final defeat in 1907. But he became a winner on April 21, 1906 - and was instrumental in helping Everton bring the FA Cup back to Merseyside for the first time. With the Crystal Palace Cup Final against Newcastle United heading for a goalless stalemate, there was an exchange in midfield between Jack Taylor and Jimmy Settle. The ball was switched out to the feet of Jack Sharp who, according to a contemporary newspaper report "resisted the attentions of McWilliam and dashing along centred like a flash clean into the goalmouth, where Young, smartly following up after the leather, finished the job in style!
"Needless to say, the pent-up feelings of the multitude broke forth in such a volume of sound that it was a wonder the threatening rain-clouds overhead did not discharge their deluge."
Sharp's eventual decision to retire, after a decade of stalwart service, was influenced by witnessing the tragic and premature end to a team-mate's career. Jack Taylor was forced to quit, according to Thomas Keates' Jubilee History of the Club, by a "disabling blow to his larynx" in an FA Cup semi-final. Sharp followed a month later, but his devotion to Everton remained undimmed. After the decision a club historian, Mr Pickford, commented: "No player's brilliance on the field was more vividly impressed on the minds of the Everton spectators than Jack Sharp's." He continued to impress himself on the supporters' minds in a new role as Club Director, a position he held with distinction for many years.
Jack Sharp's brother Bertram played with him at both Aston Villa and Everton.