Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Great Memories of Edgar Street said Sheedy

In November 2009 former Hereford United player Kevin Sheedy was appointed a Herefordshire Ambassador. Last summer he gave an interview to Herefordshire Life. Here's a part of it.

Kevin makes a great ambassador for the sport in the county, where he carved his future on the pitch at Hereford United in the 1970s. And now he’s also an Ambassador for the county as a whole, signed up by Visit Herefordshire to promote the place he called home for 14 years.

When he ditched school for the football pitch at the age of 15, Kevin was drawn by the love of the game, not the astronomical wages today’s top players can command. Football in the ’70s was not seen as a moneymaking activity. Top players didn’t drive around in Lamborghinis and live in multi-million pound mansions; they more likely drove an MG and had a nice semi on a new estate… they answered the phone themselves rather than having every contact channelled through their management team.

"When I joined (1975) my starting wages were £17 a week and that had to pay for my digs and everything," he laughs.

"Hereford (United) was my apprenticeship. I joined when I was nearly 16, so that was my first introduction into professional football. I had a good manager and coach and they taught you the discipline required. You had to be hard-working, not just on the football side but we did every job going from washing kits to cleaning boots, sweeping and painting the stands to weeding the pitch. They definitely got their money’s worth out of you in those days.

"I coach under-18s now and it’s hard enough to get them to clean their own boots let alone anyone else’s. In my mind it gave you the right discipline and certainly stood me in good stead for my career. Loads of talented players I see don’t have the desire or mental strength and you need that as a top sports person because things don’t always go well. You need to be mentally strong to use the talent you have, as well as have determination and self-belief."

Kevin’s own talent was evident from an early age. He was born in Builth Wells, Wales (of Irish descent) and grew up in Allensmore just outside Hereford, which his parents and brother still call home. He was a pupil at St Francis Xavier’s in Berrington Street and then St Mary’s RC High in Lugwardine. It was only in the last two years of secondary school that he played football at what until that point had been a predominantly rugby school. He honed his skills on the football pitch with Herefordshire Lads Club where he was spotted by the coaches at Hereford United.

"I never contemplated doing anything with my life other than football. It was my life," he admits. "I left school at 15 without any qualifications or exams and I was lucky that the headmaster, Mr (Ken) Lapsley realised I had potential so let me go training every morning instead of going to school. I just needed to drop in to sign the register. It was thanks to him I had a head start."

Kevin was able to show his gratitude to Mr Lapsley when nine years after leaving the school, he sent his former head teacher two complimentary tickets to his first Cup Final for Everton, against Liverpool.

He left Edgar Street in 1978 when he was signed to Liverpool and four years later, moved to Everton where he was first choice left winger in the hugely successful 1980s side – part of the 1984 FA Cup winning team, followed by wins in the 1985 and 1987 Football League Championship, and scoring in the final of the 1985 European Cup Winners' Cup. He played for Ireland’s Euro ’88 squad in Germany. He ended his playing career in 1994 with Blackpool, and was assistant manager at Tranmere Rovers for five seasons and then at Hartlepool United before joining Everton’s coaching staff in 2006.

Although for years his home has been just outside Liverpool, Kevin pops back to Hereford to visit family and friends whenever possible. "Hereford is where my roots are. Driving back here feels like driving home. When I was playing at Hereford United a lot of people signed to play for the club ended up staying here and I find a lot of people do end up staying because it’s a nice part of the country to live.

"The football club was where I made my profession, so whenever I drive past Edgar Street it holds great memories for me."