The Leeds City & United footballer who won Olympic gold and met Mussolini.

Ivan Sharpe was born in St Albans on 15 June 1889. A journalist by profession, he also had a highly successful amateur football career.

He made his name as a left-winger with Derby County and helped them win the title in 1911-12. Later that year, he was a member of the Great Britain side that won Olympic gold in Stockholm.

In 1913, he joined Leeds City for whom he played 65 times, scoring 17 goals. When City was expelled from the Football League in 1919 for making illegal payments to players during the Great War, Sharpe was not amongst the fire sale of players (being an amateur). He went on to play one game for Leeds United in its inaugural season (1920-21). Harry Sherwin is the only other player to have played for both Leeds clubs.

Following his retirement, Sharpe was a distinguished football writer who covered the ‘White Horse’ FA Cup final of 1923 (the first at Wembley) and delivered the first live commentary on an FA Cup final in 1936. He interviewed Mussolini and almost met Hitler but the meeting fell through.

He was a forward-thinker and many of his ideas, such as goal-line referees and outlawing back passes to the goalkeeper, were years ahead of their time.

He became President of the Football Writers Association and published a high-regarded biography called “40 Years in Football”.

He died in 1968, aged 78.

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British Olympic football team 1912 – Sharpe standing second from the right.

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