Sheffield United, Wrexham and the reason you watch to the end of the credits
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BILLY SHARP?
It was inevitable that Hollywood-on-Clywedog FC’s blockbuster FA Cup showdown with Sheffield United would have a dramatic denouement worthy of Tinseltown’s golden age. The involvement of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney from That Los Angeles, in and of itself, usually guarantees nothing more than laboured cinematic allusion, celluloid punning and Metro-Goldwyn metaphor. But Tuesday night’s extremely entertaining sequel premiere at the Bramall Odeon was hailed an instant classic by all, thanks in no small part to closing scenes that featured a passionate soliloquy from Billy Sharp and a John-Wayne-versus-Victor-McLaglen-style rumble on the red carpet.
Few thought the original film of the 3-3 draw at the Racecourse Roxy could be equalled or bettered, yet it sort of was. The Welsh underdogs again came back from a goal down, and would have gone ahead were it not for a Paul Mullin penalty that was less missed than spectacularly saved by Adam Davies. Then after 20 minutes of tense to-ing and fro-ing, Ollie Palmer pulled the trigger in the hope of sealing a shock injury-time victory, only for his shot to be blocked and the hosts to counter. Max Cleworth made a hash of dealing with a long ball – a mistake that called back the blunder by Gerry Young that cost Sheffield Wednesday the 1966 FA Cup, one of the most famous howlers in football history – and Billy Sharp tore clear to slot home the decisive goal. Sander Berge made it 3-1 as the credits started rolling.
Related: Wrexham deny ‘disrespecting’ Sheffield United and point finger at Billy Sharp
It was here that the benefit of always staying in your seat until every last name has rolled off the screen was made large. A bonus post-credits stinger popped up featuring an ITV interview with Sharp, who took the opportunity to serve up some revenge piping hot. “I think they’ve been a bit disrespectful … I wasn’t happy with a few of their players … I wasn’t happy with the way they’ve been as a club, before the game, eyeing up Spurs, as though they’d beat us … but I’ve got a smile on my face as we’re through to the next round.” A bravura performance, infused with no little ironic detachment given he was wearing the sort of furious expression that Baby Jane-era Bette Davis might have considered too grotesquely sour.
Cut back to the red carpet that runs up the Bramall tunnel, on which Sharp had told Wrexham’s defeated players to “shove it in your documentary”, a meta reference to Disney+’s straight-to-TV effort Welcome to Wrexham. Sharp had also been irked by a pre-match Wrexham tweet featuring a pair of eyes and the word Spurs, a message that didn’t need the detective smarts of Benoit Blanc to decode, but did require Travis Bickle-levels of paranoia to become offended by. Sharp also instigated a feud with Joan Crawfor … ah, Wrexham defender Ben Tozer, who told him to “show a bit more humility” and later insisted: “We haven’t come in sulking. They should show more respect. I feel like he’s fabricated stuff in his head to make that acceptable.” At which point he went off muttering something about the FA Cup still being big, it’s the Blades who got small.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Just give the goal. Give the goal. We scored a goal. The ball is in the back of the net, then he blows after the ball is in the back of the net which I don’t get” – Port Vale boss Darrell Clarke gets his fume on after Accrington’s Harvey Rodgers pulled a Suárez. With the League One game level at 1-1, the defender saved a goalbound shot before the ball was turned in, earning a red card and conceding a penalty … which was saved. The 10 men held on for a draw.
MOVING THE GOALPOSTS
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FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS
Re: playing with the stars (Football Daily letters passim). About 12 years ago, I found myself playing on the same teachers’ team in Spain with a 1990 German World Cup-winning ringer in the form of Bodo Illgner (yes, that 1990 penalty shoot-out), whose daughter went to our school. Despite having the charmingly modest but commanding Bodo between the sticks, we teachers were roundly beaten by our students (I was mainly to blame in central defence). After the game, I asked Bodo if I might avenge umpteen years of English hurt by going mano a mano with him. ‘Of course,’ replied the maestro. ‘Should we use the Waddle goal or the Pearce one?’ I chose the former, placed the ball on the dust-covered penalty spot calmly, despite the searing heat and my rising excitement. Even given the high stakes, I was relaxed enough to play with Illgner’s head by staring fixedly at the far-left-hand corner. Cunningly, I shot to the right. Bodo saved it comfortably. As we walked off to the ringing laughter of my European teammates, Bodo put an avuncular arm around my shoulders and said: ‘Never mind. We can’t change history. We just have to live with it.’ A lovely guy and a true gent” – Shaun Thompson.
In the former colonies, it’s somewhat easier for a nondescript player and minor administrator to get alongside visiting heroes. Hence I have inherited Bebeto’s Brazil playing shirt, ‘entertained’ Sir Alf Ramsey (not a man for a quip and a merry jest, even after dinner), and set up Mick Channon for the winner in a 5-4 charity match with a Messi-like 10-yard pass. When Kevin Keegan visited Aotearoa and turned out for our club’s Invitation XI v the All Whites in Hamilton, he, his wife and daughters came to dinner at my house before the match. Several reds in, I persuaded him to sign a legitimate transfer form. Next day, the All Whites triumphed 5-1. Decades on, I fail to see why Keegan’s playing record mentions Liverpool, Hamburg, Southampton, Newcastle United and other minor entities, but does not include the majestic: Claudelands Rovers, P1, L1, Goals 1 (pen)” – Ewan McDonald.
Reproduce letters about stuff that interests a broad audience, please! Enough with unknown celebrities! Boring!” – Antonio Vives.
Send your letters to email@example.com. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Shaun Thompson.
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