Exclusive - Ireland legend Kevin Sheedy on why he quit Everton and his new life in Saudi Arabia
Ireland legend Kevin Sheedy has given Independent.ie an exclusive insight into his new life in Saudi Arabia, after revealing for the first time the details of his departure from the Everton coaching staff in July.
Sheedy etched himself a place in this nation’s sporting folklore when he scored Ireland’s first goal in a World Cup finals competition, with his strike against England in the 1990 World Cup finals replayed time and again down the years.
Sheedy became an Everton great during a decade of service playing for the Goodison Park club and he then served on the club’s coaching staff for 11 years before his exit last summer.
There were rumours in some newspapers that that Sheedy left Everton against his wishes, but the 57-year-old has told us that he decided to walk away from the beloved Goodison Park club after an ‘offer he couldn’t resist’ from Saudi Arabian side Al-Shabab FC.
“The first thing I would like to confirm is that I left Everton on very good terms and have nothing but good things to say about the club and the people working there,” states Sheedy.
“The reason I left was simple. The challenge of coming to a country like Saudi Arabia and trying to adapt to something entirely different at this stage of my career appealed.
“I fancied playing abroad during my playing career and that never happened, so this opportunity was presented to me and I felt like it was something I had to have a go at.
“Mike Newell (former Everton striker) is involved with Al-Shabab and he was keen to get me working with the club’s junior players and so far, it has been an incredible experience.”
Sheedy is working with Al-Shabab’s junior players and admits he has relished the chance to adapt to some of the vagaries of life in a strict Muslim country.
“There are a lot of things you have to get used to here amid the football side of it is probably the easiest part in many ways as this game is the same wherever you play it in the world,” he continues.
“What is different here is the climate and culture of the country, which takes a lot of getting used to after spending most of your life in Liverpool.
“First of all, the temperature is very different here and that means the pace of the game played here has to be slower to adapt to the heat. You don’t see matches at the pace of a Premier League game, that’s for sure.
“We train in the evenings to avoid the hottest part of the day and you also have to adapt to different ways of approaching the game, which has been fascinating for me.
“There is also a need to get used to a very different life outside of work and there are a lot of things in Saudi Arabia that you will not see back home.
“The food has not been a problem because there are some incredible restaurants here and we have been well looked after by the club, but it is an interesting experience every time you get in a car and drive anywhere in Riyad.
“Women are not allowed to drive cars here and the guys who are on the road tend to be in a hurry to get to places, so you see a lot of people being cut up on both sides.
“It is a very different way of life and it feels strange when you turn on a TV on a Saturday or Sunday and see a Premier League game pop up. It feels like a millions miles away.”
Sheedy has been watching Everton’s efforts from afar in the opening weeks of the season and he has thrown his support behind Everton boss Ronald Koeman and his squad to bounce back from a tricky few weeks that has included some heavy defeats and criticism from the club’s supporters.
“It is still very early in the season and you cannot make judgements after a handful of games,” Sheedy stressed. “Everton may have sold a great player in Romelu Lukaku this summer, but I look at the overall squad now and it is the best Everton have had for a long time.
“They have strength in depth in every positions and a great manager in Ronald Koeman, who is hugely ambitious and will push the club forward.
“It will not be easy to break into the top six, but I believe Everton have the right manager in place to get to that next level.
“You will get periods where results go against you, but this is a manager with a good track record and from what I saw working at Everton last season, he will get our club to where we want to be.”