We catch up with Toffees legend Graeme Sharp.
Andy Greeves talks to former Everton striker and club ambassador Graeme Sharp.
Season after season under David Moyes, Everton continue to gain widespread plaudits. From the ability of their manager to put together a quality squad on a relatively small budget, to the commitment shown each week by their players, the Toffees are a real modern success story.
Arriving at the Stadium of Light this afternoon, they continue to challenge for a top four finish in the Barclays Premier League and a possible place in next season’s UEFA Champions League.
“There are always far more positives when it comes to talking about Everton than negatives,” says club ambassador Graeme Sharp, who made 322 league appearances and scored 111 goals for the Goodison Park club between 1980 and 1991.
“If you said to Evertonians at the start of the season that we’d still be in with an outside chance of making a UEFA Champions League spot with a few weeks of the season, they would have definitely taken that.
"We have been traditionally slow starters in the league, but we go off to a decent start this campaign. Bar the odd blip, we’ve been fantastic this season.
“The acquisition of (Kevin) Mirallas has been fantastic. People in the past have focused on Everton’s threat offered on the left side of the pitch with (Leighton) Baines and (Steven) Pienaar, but Mirallas gives an equally good outlet on the right now.
"Behind him, young Seamus Coleman has come on leaps and bound. Everton are definitely a more expansive team these days.”
With Everton looking for points to bolster their top four claims and Sunderland still requiring victories at the other end of the table, a hotly competitive game is expected.
“It’s a massive game for both clubs,” confirms Sharp. “I think Everton realistically need to be looking to win all their games if they are to stand a chance of making the top four and for Sunderland, they need a few more victories. So with this in mind, I think we will see a very tough game.”
Buoyed by a fantastic 3-0 victory at St James’ Park last weekend, Sunderland will go into this match full of confidence and Sharp is aware of the threat they pose to his beloved Everton.
“It was a fantastic result and performance by Sunderland at Newcastle and you can guarantee that their players will be chomping at the bit to get out on the Stadium of Light pitch on Saturday,” says the former Scotland international.
“Victories breed confidence, especially when they are as significant as beating your local rivals in such a convincing manner. Certainly, I think the fixture has become more difficult for Everton since Sunderland’s result last weekend."
When it comes to identifying individual threats in the Sunderland team, Sharp believes there are a number of players in red and white who could hurt Everton.
“When you think of Sunderland, most people think of Steven Fletcher and there is no doubt he has been magnificent,” says Sharp.
“But there are other threats in that Sunderland team. I’m a really big fan of (Stephane) Sessegnon, who has fantastic technical ability and (Sebastian) Larsson is a superb midfield player whose threat from set pieces is well known.”