We continue our countdown of Elland Road cult heroes. Who is in at number 7?
If you were to write a history of Leeds United in the 1980s, there is a sense that the book would begin and end with John Sheridan’s free-kick against Charlton at St. Andrews.
The 80s were defined by disappointment and gloom at Elland Road, and an unwillingness to let go of a recent, glorious past.
Howard Wilkinson’s promotion winning season, which symbolised the end of Sheridan’s time with the Whites, fits more easily into the Leeds United of the 1990s.
In that darkness stood Sheridan. He was the glimmer of hope that Leeds fans could hold onto throughout the most trying time since Don Revie took charge and created the football club that still stands to this day.
He was initially brought in by Eddie Gray as the former winger looked to build a youthful side to take Leeds back into the top flight. It took six months for him to make his debut after signing, but he went on to make 27 league appearances in the 1982/83 campaign.
There was excitement over his 1983/84 season but it was curtailed by a broken leg.
Gray was eventually sacked and replaced by the legendary Billy Bremner.
Sheridan was at his best under Bremner, and it made sense that the Manchester City trainee would thrive under the best midfielder to ever play for the Whites.
‘Shez’, as Leeds fans knew him, was a unique player, a creative force in the centre of the park.
His quality belied the division Leeds were in, and he was integral as Bremner’s side reached an unexpected FA Cup semi-final in 1987.
While Leeds would heartbreakingly lose against Coventry after a sensational game at Hillsborough, Sheridan’s season got even better.
He would go on to score 12 goals in 36 appearances that season as Leeds pushed for the play-offs.
A replay held at St. Andrews against Charlton Athletic went to extra-time after a 0-0 stalemate. In the ninth minute of the extra 30, Sheridan hit a super free-kick to send the Leeds fans in attendance into dreamland.
However, the dream was cut down by Charlton’s Peter Shirtliff, who hit two late goals to win his side promotion.
Ask any Leeds fan about their memories of that day though and they will tell you about Sheridan’s free-kick. It defined an era, one that spoke of the club’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of triumph.
Sheridan left the following season after falling out with Wilkinson, but he was something to hold onto before promotion. When success was not there, at least there was Sheridan.