Kevin Sheedy and the Church of the Cultured Left-Footed Footballer

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Kevin Sheedy and the Church of the Cultured Left-Footed Footballer
Photo from BBC Sport

Kevin Sheedy returned to the football consciousness this week, with the sad news the former Everton midfielder has been diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Sheedy's plight reminds us that life is unpredictable and sickness indiscriminate. It also reminds us just how fine and imaginative a footballer he was, and how much those who knew his talent miss watching his left foot paint pictures on the pitch.

Sheedy played the game you wanted to on the playground. He could pick a pass, beat a player and finish—and do it all with style. He was also a masterful free-kick specialist—able to opt for the subtle or savage, and capable of putting the ball anywhere he wanted to.

Probably the most famous example came against Ipswich, in 1985. First, Sheedy blasted the ball in the top left, only to see it disallowed. Seconds later he charged in and sent a disguised chip into the top right. 

Everton fans will never forget his rocket against Liverpool either, nor the gesture Sheedy made to The Kop afterwards. 

For those raised on English football in the mid-1980s, Sheedy was a maverick we could aspire to. He played in the dominant Everton team of Neville Southall, Peter Reid, Graeme Sharp and Co. where his guile and artistry was the perfect complement to the physical specimens around him.

These were halcyon days for Everton, and Sheedy shined through them. The Republic of Ireland international was different, in the best possible way. He stood for flair and expression, and his being left-footed only magnified the contrast to others. 

Sheedy's left foot was so good it now has its own Twitter account. At least one Everton fan has written to the club requesting a signed picture of just Sheedy's left foot and nothing else. And it's required you preface any mention of Sheedy's left foot with the word "cultured."

Would he have been the same player right-footed? Rational thought says yes, but you can't escape the fact an unnatural number of the game's best creative players through history have favoured their left.

For those of us who came to the game in the '80s, our love affair with left-footed players dates back to watching Sheedy and the foremost lefty players of his generation—the likes of Diego Maradona, Gheorghe Hagi, John Barnes, Hristo Stoichkov and my personal hero, Bryan Robson.

Before them had come Ferenc Puskas. After them would follow Lionel Messi.

In a conversation about the best footballers of all time, Messi, Maradona and Puskas would feature in many's top five. When you consider 90 percent of people are born right-handed, that's some serious overachievement on the part of the lefty movement.

There's something magical about left-footed footballers. No one knows why. Perhaps it's their relative rarity, or the fact they're doing something that looks harder because most rely on their left leg for standing only.

Maybe it's down to brain science—in that left-handed people are right-brained, and thus thought to be more suited to thrive with creative tasks.

This is an extract from an article written by Michael Price for the American Psychological Association:

For years, anecdotal evidence has suggested that lefties might think more creatively than right-handers, and recent research supports this link. 

A 2007 paper in Journal of Mental and Nervous Disease (Vol. 195, No. 10) found that musicians, painters and writers were significantly more likely to be left-handed than control participants.

It's fascinating stuff and invites far deeper delving than this, but for now I'll leave you to watch Sheedy at his best and kneel at the church of the cultured left-footed footballer.

It goes without saying, we wish Sheedy and his legendary left foot a full recovery, and our thoughts are with his family.

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