"I was watching the European Championship when I realised that I needed a run of first- team football to get back my place in the England team," Sharpe said. "Lee is a class player," Wilkinson added, " the right sort of age, and the sort to respond to a new challenge. I hope he will respond to the opportunity."
Meanwhile, the league season kicked off in Scotland. Celtic, whose supporters are desperate enough to enter a Faustian pact to prevent Rangers equalling the club's record of nine consecutive Scottish titles, were put through the emotional wringer at Pittodrie before Andreas Thom salvaged a point against Aberdeen with a 90th-minute equaliser. But joy was muted - the record signing Alan Stubbs, making his competitive debut, had been sent off earlier.
Celtic dominated until the Dons' manager, former Parkhead favourite Roy Aitken, sent on substitute Duncan Shearer. At the time, Tommy Burns' side were defending a 1-0 lead gained by Pierre van Hooijdonk's spectacular 30-yard free-kick. With 74 minutes gone, Shearer got goalside of Stubbs, the former Bolton defender pulled him down, was sent off and Dean Windass converted the penalty. Shearer put the Dons ahead six minutes later. Then came Thom.
"Everything hinged on that penalty incident and the red card," Burns said. "We looked perfectly comfortable until then."
In England, the phoney war of pre-season friendlies continued with old goalkeepers refusing to fade away. The 38-year-old Zimbabwean Bruce Grobbelaar put thoughts of court appearances aside to star in Plymouth's 1-0 defeat of Manchester City. But after Chris Leadbitter scored Argyle's goal, the anticipated Grobbelaar gaffe almost gifted City an equaliser.
A former Argyle custodian, 46-year-old Peter Shilton, played for West Ham in their 4-1 win at Colchester. The Hammers' regular keeper Ludek Miklosko is nursing a dislocated finger and Shilton, the club's goalkeeping coach, said: "I will do a session on Monday and I suppose Harry [Redknapp, the manager] will have a word with me. I am available and want to play. I think I could go on all season at least."
Elsewhere, Spurs won 3-1 at Charlton but their parsimonious north London neighbours Arsenal drew 1-1 at Ipswich in John Wark's testimonial.