Kevin Sheedy was my favourite player. Our magnificent Number 11 fits the bill for being The One for me – he was a key man in a winning side, a near contemporary of mine and did things of which us mere mortals could merely dream.
Kevin Sheedy also did (for want of a better word) the most extraordinary thing I have ever witnessed on a football field. Against Ipswich’s renowned shot-stopper Paul Cooper, he smashed a free-kick from the edge of the box into Cooper’s top right hand corner. He had answered Goodison’s hissed “Sheedy, Sheedy, Sheedy” that greeted every dead ball opportunity yet again. But, but, but… the referee was inexplicably displeased with such perfection and ordered a re-take. Whereupon Kevin Sheedy simply placed the ball in Cooper’s top left-hand corner. I do not exaggerate when I claim a feeling close to that engendered by art’s concept of The Sublime when I see that sequence of play. In my mind’s eye, this is a picture of Sheedy contemplating the Park End. Over the top? Well, see for yourself and make your call.
Of course, these happy memories come rushing in as a result of Leighton Baines’ genius at Upton Park, planting two free kicks either side of Jussi Jaaskeleinen. Compared to Sheedy’s efforts, Baines’ goals were technically less difficult – a better distance to get the ball up and down and the ‘keeper’s movements made the targets larger – but these goals were both equalisers and away from home. It’s best not to judge these glorious examples of football’s capacity to astoniosh, but simply to marvel and to give thanks that such brilliance wears a badge that claims, correctly, Nils Satis Nisi Optimum.
One more thing unites Everton’s two greatest left-sided players – the sheer romance of their play. In an age of Opta stats and Moneyball analysis, both men are unafraid to try the outrageous, to make hard choices eschewing the easier options, to think of the glorious opportunities attendant on wearing the Blue shirt and not its limitations in the age of oligarchs and the Champions League. They are dream players because they do stuff in real life that really should only appear in dreams (Baines’ free kick vs Newcastle last season is precisely what I mean).
Perhaps most of all though, they are ours – bearers of the School of Science’s tradition, respected and coveted by fans of other clubs, but unconditionally loved by fans of ours. Kevin Sheedy and Leighton Baines – all-time great Evertonians – I salute you.