It was with regret that we learnt of the passing of George Sharples on 14th December 2020 at the age of 77.
George Frank Vincent Sharples was born in Ellesmere Port on 20th September 1943. As a youngster he attended Wirral Grammar School, which was a rugby-playing school, but it was football that he excelled. An England schoolboy international, he was referred to at the time as a ‘second Duncan Edwards’ and became an England Youth international.
George, in July 1959, joined the groundstaff at Everton straight from school and was a member of the Everton side that lost the 1960-61 F.A. Youth Cup Final to Chelsea over two legs. He made his League debut for the club at seventeen, when he deputised for Jimmy Gabriel in a 1-1 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion on 5th November 1960. George made five League appearances and one in the League Cup during the 1960-61 season but the following season found him back in the reserves without being called upon for first team duty.
When Harry Catterick paid a club record £55,000 to sign Tony Kay, Sheffield Wednesday’s left-half, George found himself lower down in the pecking order. After his initial breakthrough George made just five more League appearances for Everton before moving to Ewood Park, in March 1965, for £7,000. He was given the opportunity to be the successor to the long-serving Mick McGrath in the left-half spot and made his debut for Rovers in a 4-0 home win over West Ham United on 20th March 1965.
George started the ill-fated 1965-66 season as first choice for the left-half spot but as the club became embroiled in a relegation battle he found himself in and out of the team. In total he made 28 League starts and one substitute appearance and impressed as a tough tackling half-back who was totally committed to the cause.
Although not the tallest, George was sturdily built but lacked a little in mobility to occupy the midfield area which was now becoming a specialised role. In July 1966 the club paid a sizable fee to bring Barrie Hole, a Welsh International, to Ewood Park from Cardiff City to partner Bryan Douglas in midfield. As a result, George found himself on the bench or in the reserves during the opening months of the 1966-67 season.
However, injury to Dick Mulvaney and the retirement of David Holt left a gap in the centre of defence partnering Ronnie Clayton. Despite his lack of height, Jack Marshall turned to George to make the switch from midfield to centre-back. It proved a great success as the two struck up an immediate understanding and provided a platform for the team to make a push for immediate promotion back to the First Division.
Sadly, the Rovers fell short in the promotion battle and Eddie Quigley, who had stepped up from assistant-manager to fill Marshall’s position, expressed concern about the lack of height in the centre-back positions. As a result, he signed Huddersfield Town’s long-serving captain, John Coddington, to fill one of the centre-back roles. At the start of the 1967-68 campaign, George was the man who had to give way, although he returned to partner Coddington for a long spell in mid-season.
George continued to give good service to the club until he suffered a badly broken leg against Derby County, at the Baseball Ground, on 1st March 1969. Although he returned to play for the reserves, George never played again for the first team and joined Southport in July 1971.
George played a total of 23 League games for Southport, all in the number six shirt, and made a further 2 substitute appearances. At Haig Avenue he formed an experienced midfield partnership with John McPhee, the former Blackpool veteran. Sadly, his last appearance for Southport came on 10th April 1972 when he sustained a knee injury playing against Hartlepool. Following a diagnosis of arthritis, George retired from the game at 28.
George lived in Pleasington and was employed at the Star Paper Mill, eventually becoming Northern Sales manager. In retirement George lived at Grange-over-Sands for many years.
The Blackburn Rovers Former Players Association wish to express their deepest sympathy to George’s family and friends at this sad time.