GREAT HARWOOD TOWN
Dave Sharples was one of, if not ‘the’ best midfielder to have played for Great Harwood Town. He also played for Blackburn Rovers, Accrington Stanley, Clitheroe, Morecambe, Lancaster City, Chorley and Darwen, amongst others!
Dave played under Ian McGarry at Darwen alongside another future Harwood star, Martin Horsfield, and enjoyed a very successful spell with the Salmoners.
He joined Great Harwood Town during the 1991/92 season after the club had won the NWCL 2 nd Division title the previous year, and his first goal proved vital in a crucial 3-2 win at Bradford Park Avenue on March 7 th with the other goals coming from Pete Smith and Paul Rigby. He scored just one more goal that season, in the cup, but his midfield magic helped the Robins to not only win promotion via 2 nd place in the 1 st Division, but also win the ATS Trophy against mighty Southport at Burnden Park. Paul Baker (2) and Pete Smith scored the goals in front of a large and noisy band of Harwood supporters. This was the second year in a row that the Robins had reached the final, having been beaten by Marine at Chorley the previous year.
The following season brought more success with Dave providing the guile in the middle of the park and the likes of Smith, Baker, Lee Rogerson, Clive Dunn and Neil Baron providing the firepower. Under the managership of EricWhalley, and with Dave Sharples, the best midfielder in non-league football, the club enjoyed what was the most successful period since the days of Great Harwood FC.
His first goal of the 92/93 season was the decisive second in the 2-1 home win against Alfreton Town with Smith scoring the other. He scored four more times, and on each occasion, Harwood were victorious. Their opening Northern Premier League campaign ended with a very respectable 8 th place.
The following season saw the Reds slip to 9 th position with Dave hitting the target just once before leaving the club for pastures new.
Without the maestro pulling the strings in midfield, the following two seasons saw Harwood finish in 16 th and then 19 thplace.
Dave was re-signed by Manager John Hughes towards the end of the 2002/03 season with the team struggling but he helped turn things around as the Robins embarked upon a record-breaking 11 games without defeat to finish in 6 thplace.
John Hughes then left to manage Chorley and ex-Blackburn Rover Dave Bradford took over the reins and made Dave his assistant although he’d still be playing. Bradford signed a host of exciting youngsters but the step up proved a little too much for some and the team struggled. By the end of September the Robins were rock-bottom and he resigned whereupon Chairman Bill Holden persuaded Dave to take over.
‘Sharps’ made his Great Harwood Town managerial debut at Bacup Borough. His side struggled during the first half but were only 1-0 down at the break, and a sending off for the home side early in the second period handed the initiative to Harwood but they found the home keeper, ex-Bolton Wanderer Dave Felgate, in inspired form. As the game reached the final minute, Harwood were awarded a controversial penalty and despite Felgate getting a hand to the ball, Paul Mashiter equalised to send the noisy Harwood followers into raptures.
The next game saw another point won in a 2-2 draw at Atherton Collieries but a run of five defeats in six games followed and despite the odd good result at home, the side continued to languish at the wrong end of the table.
The Harwood legend also had difficulty raising 15 players on numerous occasions, especially for away fixtures. This was best illustrated at the relegation battle with Salford where just 11 players made the trip. An early injury, an early sending off and Harwood were effectively down to nine men and they suffered a humiliating 8-0 defeat.
With several games still to play the Robins were all but down and John Hughes was brought back to the club just months after leaving. Dave then reverted to assistant and results improved enough to take the side into the final game of the season knowing that a win at Stalybridge against Curzon Ashton would save them from the drop. Sadly for Sharps, Hughesy, the players and the small band of supporters, Curzon cruised to an easy 2-0 victory to send the Reds back into the NWCFL 2 nd Division.
Dave left the club and was replaced as assistant boss by Mickey Graham.
At the moment he’s not currently involved in football preferring to spend more time with his family, wife Tracy, and daughters Rebecca and Hannah, and he’s still keeping himself fit with 10k runs.
Don’t rule out a return to football at some point as his knowledge of the game could prove invaluable to a local club.