Ply­mouth boss John Sheri­dan has picked up tips from Big Ron

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

AMONG the amuse­ment ar­cades, lol­lipops and Hol­ly­wood Balls, Big Ron Atkin­son loved to hand out the oc­ca­sional ‘spot­ter’s badge’.

Re­served for those with the vi­sion to pick a pass and the tech­nique to pull it off, the spot­ter’s badge was be­stowed on ev­ery­one from David Beck­ham to Zine­dine Zi­dane dur­ing Atkin­son’s days as a Cham­pi­ons League pun­dit for ITV.

It be­came his most fa­mous quip, as syn­ony­mous with the for­mer Man United boss as over­sized jewellery and a year-round tan. And it was all be­cause of John Sheri­dan.

“John was one of the best play­ers I’ve ever worked with,” says Atkin­son, who man­aged the Ir­ish mid­fielder at Sh­effield Wed­nes­day.

“He was a mag­nif­i­cent passer, great vi­sion. He’d play a ball no­body would an­tic­i­pate and you’d go ‘He’s seen that one early, that’s a spot­ter’s badge’. And that’s where it came from.

“Shez could do it in the tight­est ar­eas. He made his own time and space. Great play­ers do that.

“And he’s one of the best play­ers I’ve ever worked with on free kicks. He pulled all kinds of strokes around the box. He’s cocky on the ball. Au­da­cious.

“You talk to any­one at Sh­effield Wed­nes­day and he’ll come into their best-ever team. I think there was some sort of bal­lot and he was voted their best ever player.

“Shez is well rated. In terms of Ire­land, Johnny Giles and Liam Brady would be up here, and in the next cat­e­gory, I’d have Shez.”

Born in Stret­ford, Sheri­dan grew up sup­port­ing Manch­ester City and joined the club as a school­boy.

How­ever, it would be across the Pen­nines at El­land Road where the classy play­maker would forge his rep­u­ta­tion, mak­ing more than 250 ap­pear­ances in seven years.

Signed in the wake of rel­e­ga­tion from the First Di­vi­sion in 1982, Sheri­dan would be­came a bea­con of hope for dis­grun­tled Leeds sup­port­ers, his class on the ball – and fre­quent flashes of tem­per – en­dear­ing him to the crowd and seal­ing a place in the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion team of the year three years run­ning.

“Shez was as good as any­one at that time,” said for­mer Leeds team-mate Bren­dan Ormsby. “Skill-wise, I’d have put him up there with any of the mid­field boys from the top First Di­vi­sion clubs.

“He had real class in the mid­dle of the park, and he was a bit of a rogue as well. He was the com­plete pack­age and he was – and still is – a lovely bloke.

“He never stopped moan­ing, though that’s usu­ally a sign of a good player – one who de­mands the best and ex­pects a lot from his col­leagues.”

Unused by Brian Clough at For­est, Sheri­dan then joined Wed­nes­day, where he played ar­guably his finest football, fa­mously scor­ing the win­ning goal against Man United in the 1991 League Cup fi­nal and help­ing the Owls to third in the top flight.

It was also where he won the ma­jor­ity of his 34 Ire­land caps, which yielded ap­pear­ances in Euro ’88 and the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.

“Sheri­dan is the best cen­tral mid­field player I ever played with,” said Wed­nes­day team-mate Carl­ton Palmer. “With­out a shadow of a doubt. He was even bet­ter than Gas­coigne.”

Though ad­vised to re­tire with a knee in­jury in his early thir­ties, Sheri­dan sol­diered on with Bolton (where he won the First Di­vi­sion in 1997), Don­caster and Old­ham, fi­nally hang­ing up his boots at the grand old age of 39. Ap­pointed man­ager of Old­ham in 2006, he spent three years at Bound­ary Park, fin­ish­ing eighth in 2007-08 be­fore de­part­ing the fol­low­ing sea­son. Sheri­dan then joined Ch­ester­field, where he won the League Two ti­tle in 2010-11.

That achieve­ment would count for lit­tle when he was sacked fol­low­ing rel­e­ga­tion from League One but, af­ter six months out of the game, the 48-year-old joined League Two strug­glers Py­mouth Ar­gyle in Jan­uary and led them to safety with eight wins from their fi­nal 19 games.

And for Sheri­dan, the man who gave him the first ever spot­ter’s badge re­mains the most in­flu­en­tial.

“I’ve had good ex­pe­ri­ences,” he said. “Howard Wilkin­son was very well-or­gan­ised, knew his set-pieces, knew what he wanted from his play­ers and drilled it into them. Cloughie just played off the cuff.

“But Ron Atkin­son has to be the best man­ager I have worked un­der be­cause of his man-man­age­ment, which was his real strength.

“He knew how to get the best out of play­ers, which is some­thing I feel I am ca­pa­ble of do­ing.”

PIC­TURE: Dan Mul­lan/ Pin­na­cle



PLY­MOUTH AR­GYLE MAN­AGER SUR­VIVAL: Ply­mouth man­ager John Sheri­dan shouts in­struc­tions from the touch­line

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