My Hero – Kevin Sheedy
Kevin Sheedy was an Everton Great, even sweeter to write as he could, and should, have been a Liverpool Great, since they had him as a youngster, but let him go (preferring Ronnie Whelan, with whom he shared many traits). He won everything short of the European Cup in club football (he wasn't allowed to compete post-Heysel) and was a key member of Jack Charlton's Ireland teams.
He had some of the skills and limitations of David Beckham, except he was even more one-sided (left), never headed a football (except once vs Man Utd), never tackled and never beat a man for pace or with a trick. He never warmed up, and if taking up position at the opposite side of the pitch from the tunnel, barely made it to his place, so slowly did his bandy-legged walk carry him over the ground. He was average in height, could be riled, but was generally placid in temperament and shunned the Press. He celebrated boisterously, but almost immediately slumped the shoulders and, on those bandy legs, trudged back to the half way line. You could have stood next to him on the bus on the way to the ground and never have noticed the hero next to you.
But he averaged 10 goals per league season over seven years as a wide midfielder (not a wide forward / midfielder like Giggs or Pires) without taking penalties at a time when the rules made it much harder to score and 1-0 was a very common scoreline. If they kept stats on it, he would have had the highest number of assists in the League for certain. He took free kicks all right, and to my continuing astonishment, deposited one Goodison effort round the wall into the top left corner, only for the referee to demand a re-take: whereupon he planted the ball in the top right corner – I expected him to retire there and then, a life’s work accomplished.
Sheedy is probably best remembered for this little vignette at Anfield: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGOOhe5xZ8&mode=related&search.
In an age where footballers are said to be mercenaries with agents touting them around the world like pig belly futures, it’s great to see a player doing exactly what every single Evertonian dreams of doing and following it up with exactly what every single Evertonian would do given the chance. The fingers salute’s noble origins on the battlefield with English archers taunting the French foe who would cut those vital bow tensioning digits off if captured, is a nice allusion for the conflict between neighbours a derby represents. It’s a long way from Agincourt to Anfield, unless you’re Kevin Sheedy.
Never, and this includes Paul Scholes, has so much football come from so unprepossessing an individual. The Royal Blue 11 shirt will always be Kevin Sheedy's and no Bluenose of a certain vintage will ever see a wall line up without hearing “Sheedy… Sheedy… Sheedy” on the soundtrack of memories involuntarily playing in their brain.