An email conversation with Lee Sharpe: 'During one close season I was sober for three days'

Playing for Manchester United at 17; From England to the Northern Counties League; Receiving the full force of Alex Ferguson's 'hairdryer'; The myths surrounding his lifestyle
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The Independent Online

For what do you think you are best known? My daft on-pitch celebrations and my dodgy haircuts.

What is your latest project? There are a few TV shows in the pipeline, a mix of sports presenting and lifestyle-type shows. And I'm going to be a show jumper! I'm taking riding lessons at the moment and they're going really well.

Of what outside football are you most proud? My golf handicap, which is officially one - though I've not played for a while, so it's probably more like four or five at the moment.

What regrets, if any, do you have about your footballing career? I don't really have any regrets about my football career - other people questioned my decision to leave United but, at the time, it was the right decision for me. If I could change one thing, I'd maybe not have signed for Bradford as the club was in a bit of shambles, but the lads were great.

What kind of music do you like to listen to? I really like The Killers, Kasabian, Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, that sort of thing. I went to a couple of festivals last summer and saw Kasabian and Doves - they were totally fantastic.

What is your favourite film - and why? Dumb and Dumber because it's full of really great one-liners. I also enjoyed Shrek 2 - excellent.

Have you had any other comeback offers since Garforth Town a couple of years ago? How was life in the Northern Counties East League? I've had a few people ask me to play for their pub teams but I don't usually take them up on it - the pitches are like potato fields and you always get some hungover nutter trying to take you down. Apart from that, no.

Tell us about that time Sir Alex Ferguson came round to your house and got very cross. Presumably you've mentioned that in your forthcoming book. Details please. I have talked about it in the book - you'll have to read about it there! But basically me and Giggsy [Ryan Giggs] got one of the manager's famous "hairdryers" when he thought we'd been out on the town before a game. It was rubbish because we weren't actually doing anything wrong, but it went a long way towards fuelling all those myths about my lifestyle. We were all getting ready to go out, and when Giggsy's mate answered the door he was carrying the only two bottles of beer that were left in the house. It looked like a full-blown house party, but it was just bad timing, that's all.

Tell us about that day in 1990 when you scored a hat-trick at Highbury and Man United beat Arsenal 6-2. It was a League Cup game, Arsenal had only conceded about eight goals all season and we were 3-0 up at half-time... I'd scored a 20-yard right-footed curler into the top corner past David Seaman so I knew it was my lucky day. I came out second half and scored a second with my head, and then the third with my right foot, all in front of our travelling fans... It's the stuff dreams are made of.

Who was the most talented player in that United side? You? No, not me! There were a few, it's tough to pick one - probably Mark Hughes or Bryan Robson.

You have said you were once on the booze for seven days and seven nights while on holiday. Presumably that is still your record? During one close season break we had seven weeks off and I was sober for three days. I came back to pre-season training and came third in the club in a 12-minute run. But then I was a lot younger in those days...

How important are clothes to you? How much would you spend on a shirt? Clothes are important to me but I don't think it's necessarily how much you spend that makes them great.

What about cars? Have you spent much on them? I love cars and I've blown fortunes on them. I love speed - I'm not a bungee jumper or a base jumper but give me a fast car and I'm happy.

And your hair? I'll probably spend between £40 and £50 on a haircut. I've had a few bad haircuts - probably going all-blond when I was at Leeds was the worst one.

Which players currently operating in the Premier League would you pay to see? I don't usually pay to see Premier League matches but, if I did, I'd pay good money to see Wayne Rooney because I think he's the most exciting player in the League. And Ronaldinho at Barcelona, because I think he's on another planet.

What was more exciting - your first game for Manchester United or your game for England? Probably my first for Man United - I was only 17 and I'd only been at the club for a couple of months so it was pretty mind-blowing.

Celebrity Love Island - good for you? Good for anyone else? It was a good holiday for me. I had a great time and I'm still in touch with a few of the people from the show.

Was it always obvious who was going to succeed in the Manchester United youth team? Yes, I think the five or six lads that came through [Beckham, Paul Scholes, the Neville brothers and Nicky Butt] ... it was always obvious they were going to make it. Although Paul Scholes almost got released after his first year as a YTS.

You have spoken about your frustration at Manchester United towards the end of your time when you were just "filling gaps" in the side. Why didn't Sir Alex Ferguson stick with you? I don't know - maybe you should be asking him that question. I was just playing bit parts towards the end of my time at Old Trafford. Centre midfield I didn't mind, but I was playing left-back and right wing, and I knew I wasn't going to play in the big games. I spent two unhappy years there.

Who do you keep in touch with from your playing days? One of my best mates, Neil Whitworth, was at Man United but only played one game. We're still in touch. Another mate used to be at Man City but, apart from that, I don't really have many close footballer mates.

What is your ambition? My ambition is to be successful and to enjoy whatever I do in life. I really enjoy the TV work so, hopefully, that'll work out.

Which three words best sum up your character? Chilled, free-spirited, spontaneous.

Lee Sharpe's book 'My Idea Of Fun' is published by Orion (£6.99)

Attachment: The Lee Sharpe lowdown

* 25 May 1971 Born Halesowen.

* 1988 Begins career at Torquay United. After only 19 games, signed by Manchester United in June for £185,000 - a record fee for a YTS player.

* 1991 PFA Young Footballer of the Year. On left wing as United lift the European Cup-Winners' Cup.

* 1991 Makes England debut against the Republic of Ireland. Wins eight caps in four years.

* 1996 After 265 games and 36 goals for Manchester United, signed by Leeds United for a club record fee of £4.5m. Injuries restrict him to 26 Premiership appearances, five goals, in 1996-97, and cause him to miss the next season.

* 1998 Loaned out to Serie A strugglers Sampdoria in December, but returns to Leeds in the new year.

* 1999 Signed by Bradford City in March for £200,000. Key player as club secured promotion to Premiership after 77 years outside top division. Helped club retain that status in 1999-2000.

* 2002 Given free transfer by Bradford after loan spell at Portsmouth. Joins Exeter City.

* 2003 Announces retirement at age of 32. Briefly comes out of retirement with Garforth Town the following year.

* 2005 Competitor in Celebrity Wrestling and Celebrity Love Island.

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