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Sheridan up and at it

Ex-international makes positive restart

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Gary Deegan of Shelbourne following his side’s defeat in the Airtricity League match against Waterford at Tolka Park

Gary Deegan of Shelbourne following his side’s defeat in the Airtricity League match against Waterford at Tolka Park

SPORTSFILE

Gary Deegan of Shelbourne following his side’s defeat in the Airtricity League match against Waterford at Tolka Park

On Saturday afternoon, John Sheridan was back in Dublin engaged in a football match with points on the line. More than 25 years had passed since the last time he was in that position.

The June 1995 Lansdowne Road defeat to Austria was the beginning of the end for the European Championships campaign that brought down the curtain on Jack Charlton's tenure.

Sheridan is 55 now, and the new manager of Waterford admitted that it's somewhat unusual to end up back in these parts just a few weeks after the passing of Charlton and all the reflective nostalgia that went with it.

The Covid-19 shutdown has indirectly brought him here as his initial plan for 2020 was to take a break from the game for a while to undergo knee replacement surgery.

Two cancellations due to more pressing concerns for the health service left him open to a call from Lee Power to help a club in need.

The Mancunian embraced the opportunity, and stressed that he wasn't exactly stepping into alien territory after enjoying an opening win at Tolka Park on Saturday afternoon. His family's Irish roots are in the capital.

"My Dad was Dalymount Park, my mum was the Oliver Bond flats (in the inner city), I've aunties and cousins around Ballyfermot. They're all apparently nice places aren't they?" he added, with a grin, playing to the crowd.

He had slipped comfortably into the surroundings in the previous 90 minutes, as a patched up Waterford side eked out a win over a disappointing Shels team that had more energy in the dying stages but lacked invention.

Sheridan has forged a respectable career managing in the English lower leagues and politely pointed out that the stadiums and facilities there are of a better quality. He was far from enamoured with the Tolka surface on Saturday.

But he also knows he's arriving at a bizarre time that has placed even more strain on resources. To comply with distancing requirements and protocols, the away side changed in what is normally a bar/function room area.

"You can't even have a wash after a game, a shower," said the ex-Sheffield Wednesday midfielder. "You've got to be careful where you walk, what you do, shaking hands, it's difficult times for everybody, not just us."

He noted, with a wry smile, that the immaculate playing surface at the RSC might prove to be too welcoming.

Interrupted

Still, after an interrupted preparation and a teamsheet that reflected they have a depleted squad, Waterford managed to cobble together an 11 that was capable of earning an important reward. The Blues only fielded six subs and will be waiting another few weeks for marquee capture Daryl Murphy to be fit.

There were shades of his old international manager as Sheridan got stuck in a name related maze trying to recall the surname of Scottish centre-half Jake Davidson who is quarantining before joining up with the group.

He's getting to know the quirks of the characters he inherited, and closed doors football meant the interactions between the bench and the players were clearly audible. There was exasperation as callow members of his side were guilty of mistakes in possession that made the second half more complicated than he'd have liked. "Pass the f**king ball, it's f**king simple," was the rebuke to one player.

But there was encouragement too, an attempt to draw the best from a group that had far less preparation time than their hosts. He didn't need to say much to experienced Northern Irish midfielder Robbie Weir, a seasoned English lower league operator who clearly ran out of steam late on but found himself in the right places. All that savvy will be required for what comes next. Sheridan's main brief is to keep Waterford up, but he insists he is aiming higher.

"The first thing is we stay in the league, that's the most important thing, but at the same time we've got to have a belief that we can do well," he said. "There's a good standard here and you can get to Europe, that's massive plus. I'm trying to put my own stamp on things, and try and be in or around the top."

His feeling is that it's a level enough field below the likely top two.

Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers both have players he encountered over the water where his managerial CV includes three permanent spells at Oldham, two at Chesterfield, and stints with Plymouth, Newport, Fleetwood, Carlisle and Notts County. This is only an arrangement until the end of the season as it stands.

"I look at Shamrock's team," he says, "And I've managed about three or four of them so I know what quality is in around. With (Graham) Burke and Jack ... what's his name? (he is asked if he's talking about Jack Byrne) Yeah, Jack Byrne and Burkey, they've got good quality and Dundalk have one or two players that played against me."

Imports

Don't read too much into the surname grappling. It was Sheridan that actually brought Byrne to Oldham initially, while Burke was in his Notts County dressing room. Hoops defender Daniel Lafferty also worked under him at Oldham.

The increasing number of imports into the league means Sheridan is guaranteed to encounter more faces that he has crossed paths with before. The opposing manager on Saturday, Ian Morris, who acknowledged that his side deserved to lose, played under Sheridan at Chesterfield too. It remains a small world, even in these strange times.

"I was very fortunate to be in or around the Ireland squad for eight or nine years," continued Sheridan, "I know the people and how friendly they are, and I've always got on really well here. It's not really new to me, that aspect of it.

"I'm over here for three or four months. I'm not looking anywhere long term. I just want to concentrate on the 14, 15 games that we've got and try and achieve something. What will be after that? We don't know."