Kevin Sheedy on that World Cup goal and his Herefordshire roots

PUBLISHED: 13:05 22 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:24 20 February 2013

Kevin during a recent visit to The Minister Specialist Sports College, Leominster, where he presented awards to young footballers

Kevin during a recent visit to The Minister Specialist Sports College, Leominster, where he presented awards to young footballers

Twenty years ago former Hereford United player Kevin Sheedy played for the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup

Hereford re-united

Twenty years ago former Hereford United player Kevin Sheedy played for the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup. His personal highlight was scoring against England. Rachel Crow hears him reminisce about 1990, Edgar Street and the Herefordshire headteacher who encouraged his talent

Its every professional footballers highlight and what you strive to do play against the best players in the world, says Kevin Sheedy who famously scored against England in the 1-1 opening round draw of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

It is on a completely different level to playing for your club. When you go onto the world stage you realise how huge it is and so is the build-up to it and pressure in the games to do well, adds the 50-year-old county
football legend.

We went to Malta to prepare for the tournament and got to the quarter finals and did really well for a country like Ireland, but it was just fantastic being involved and everything that went with it: the supporters, games themselves, having the nation behind you, the highs and lows. Playing in the quarter finals in front of 80,000 supporters in Rome against the host city was a magic moment and amazing experience, he smiles.

Kevin also played all of the qualifying games for the 1994 World Cup, but just missed out due to injury.

Now coaching the next generation of potential football stars of the Academy Team at Everton F.C., we meet as returns to Herefordshire to make a presentation to a team of gifted County Cup-winning players at the Minster Specialist Sports College in Leominster.

He wasnt half bad, we hear one student mutter as they watch video highlights of Kevins playing history in the sports hall prior to the presentations.

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 hes 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 todays top players can command. Football in the 70s was not seen as a moneymaking activity. Top players didnt 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 moneys worth out of you in those days.

I coach under-18s now and its hard enough to get them to clean their own boots let alone anyone elses. 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 dont have the desire or mental strength and you need that as a top sports person because things dont always go well. You need to be mentally strong to use the talent you have, as well as have determination and self-belief.

Kevins 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 Xaviers in Berrington Street and then St Marys 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 Irelands 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 Evertons 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 its 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.

My Herefordshire Life
Kevin Sheedy

What will you do in your role as Herefordshire Ambassador?

I hope to help promote everything good about the county. I have such fond memories as a child growing up here and had a happy childhood

What do you enjoy most about the county?
The friendliness and as a child I always felt safe. The scenery is also totally different from where I live now

Where are your favourite spots in the county?
One of my favourite spots would have to be Edgar Street because thats where it all started for me. I remember to get to work I had to walk through the Cattle Market so I love everything that is Hereford really. Other spots are Ross-on-Wye and Symonds Yat

Whats your favourite pub or restaurant in the area?
When I come back we like to visit the Axe and Cleaver and The Pilgrim Hotel (both Much Birch)

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