John Sheridan's 'old school' words on Leeds United's Jordan Stevens should fuel his fire - Graham Smyth

LUCKY LAD - Leeds United's Jordan Stevens was told he should realise how fortunate he is to be at such a big club, by Swindon Town boss John Sheridan. Pic: GettyLUCKY LAD - Leeds United's Jordan Stevens was told he should realise how fortunate he is to be at such a big club, by Swindon Town boss John Sheridan. Pic: Getty
LUCKY LAD - Leeds United's Jordan Stevens was told he should realise how fortunate he is to be at such a big club, by Swindon Town boss John Sheridan. Pic: Getty
When Eddie Gray, Johnny Giles and Norman Hunter held court at Leeds United’s centenary celebrations, John Sheridan was hanging on every word.

“I could listen to them all day, how they talk about the old days and how they used to get stuck into each other in training, how they picked people out when they were not doing something,” he said.

“I love all that. I am a bit ‘old school’ like that. That is not in today’s football, unfortunately.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There was something of the old school in former Leeds player Sheridan’s parting advice for current Leeds player Jordan Stevens who, up until recently, had been playing for him on loan at Swindon Town.

It wasn’t working out for either party, so the deal was terminated and Stevens will now try his luck at Bradford City.

Stevens, suggested Sheridan, needs to realise how lucky he is to be a football player at a club the size of Leeds United.

He went on to question the heat of the fire in Stevens’ belly and implored the youngster to enjoy football, to come into work every day with a smile on his face.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The words jarred, a little. Stevens is just 20 years of age and while Sheridan’s take was not particularly harsh, it left a question mark hanging publicly over a young player’s attitude.

When you talk to Sheridan about his own Leeds career, luck is a word he uses often. Lucky enough to have impressed a scout, lucky enough to train with great players, lucky enough to play a lot of games and score a few goals.

Leeds represented a second chance. He blames himself for the first not working out, at Manchester City.

“Probably attitude was the issue with me when I was 15, 16,” he said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I played for Man City from the age of 10 and, just because you’re signed on at Man City, you think you’ve got this right to make it.”

At various clubs Sheridan has prioritised enjoyment in training, setting out to get a smile on players’ faces in order to get results.

There have been suggestions from those who have worked with him, however, that he struggles with the concept of players not being able to do what he was able to do and perhaps having suffered from taking football for granted, he can’t stand by when he perceives that in others.

So he has also been known to let rip, on players, in private and in public.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The hairdryer treatment is not so much the done thing any more. It's not the Marcelo Bielsa way and you hear fewer and fewer accounts of managers losing it and launching home truth grenades in dressing rooms.

Ian Evatt, now manager at Bolton Wanderers, once lamented the fact that he couldn’t emphasise the importance of results to young players at Chesterfield in the way it was emphasised to him as a youngster.

“Obviously you’re not allowed to do that any more, which makes it difficult, because I’d have strung a few up by now,” he said in 2017.

The problem, or one of them, for young players is that from a young age they are touted and puffed up on social media, every like on their Instagram post a pat on the back and a token of approval. It is a problem of our creation, not theirs. We, football fans and the media, build them up until football’s harsh realities or their own human errors appear, and then the once-cheering audience becomes the unforgiving, baying mob that tears them down.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And when you’ve been told you’re the ‘next big thing’ enough times, criticism, even in the most gentle of tones, is going to come as a shock to the system.

Mateusz Klich told a tale of a Leeds academy player who turned up for gym work in Louis Vuitton trainers. “He wanted to look like real footballers,” said the Pole. The real footballers then took him aside to scold him.

It probably stung, a little, because, as Klich said, he was just trying ‘to look the part’. It would sting a hell of a lot more if Klich had named him when telling that story to a Polish magazine.

Stevens will be stinging from the scolding he received, via the Swindon Advertiser, from an Elland Road hero.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The player went through some very well-documented issues last season and hasn’t had the easiest or best 2020/21 so far. But Leeds and Bradford have given him a fresh chance to enjoy what’s left of this campaign.

Like any player to ever pull on the white shirt, he should consider himself lucky. The job now is to prove himself worthy. Sheridan’s words should be more than enough fuel for his fire.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.