Where do we begin with John Sheridan? There will be very few managers in the lower divisions with more experience in the game, and he is one of only two managers in League Two to have played in the World Cup Finals (the other being Harry Kewell). He also holds the rare distinction of having both played in and managed over 500 first-class matches.
The tough-tackling midfielder has certainly carved out a very good career in the game since joining his hometown club Manchester City at the age of sixteen. Having not made an appearance at Maine Road, he signed for newly-relegated Leeds a year later and made his Second Division debut shortly after his eighteenth birthday. He immediately became a fixture in the heart of Leeds’ midfield and went on to make 272 appearances in seven seasons, scoring an impressive 53 goals. After a series of near misses, Leeds made the playoffs in 1986-87 (losing in the final to Charlton) and also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup where they were beaten by eventual winners Coventry. His total of 15 league goals from midfield was the best return of his career.
Towards the end of his time at Elland Road, he won the first of his 34 caps for the Republic of Ireland in a 2-0 friendly win over Romania on 23 March 1988. Despite being part of the squad for the 1988 European Championships in West Germany, Sheridan did not make an appearance, missing the famous 1-0 win over England. After two less successful seasons at Leeds, Sheridan fell out with manager Howard Wilkinson and moved on to Nottingham Forest in August 1989 for £650,000.
Unfortunately, things did not go well under Brian Clough, and Sheridan was on the move a few months later after a single appearance. His first season at Sheffield Wednesday proved to be a great disappointment as they were relegated from the First Division, but he had the compensation of making one appearance in the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy. The following season, Wednesday bounced back in great style at the first attempt. In addition to winning automatic promotion with a third-place finish, Wednesday also won the League Cup as a Second Division club with Sheridan scoring the only goal of the final against Manchester United. The success kept on coming, with a third-place finish in their first season back in the First Division, reaching the final of both the League Cup and the FA Cup in 1992-93, the second round of the UEFA Cup in the same season, and the semi-final of the League Cup again in 1993-94. He also made four appearances in the World Cup Finals in the USA at the end of that season.
Wednesday then entered a far quieter period and, after a short loan spell at Birmingham, Sheridan left for newly-relegated Bolton in November 1996. He had scored an impressive 33 goals in 243 appearances at Hillsborough. Incredibly, he repeated the feat of helping his new club bounce straight back to the top flight as Bolton waltzed to the 1996-97 First Division championship. Unfortunately, they were relegated straight back to the First Division, and Sheridan made the surprise move to Doncaster Rovers, just relegated from the Football League. His stay at Belle Vue was very short, and he was back in the Football League at the age of 34 with Oldham Athletic, the start of an intermittent relationship that would continue for the best part of two decades.
In his first season, Oldham had to win their final two games to stay in the Second Division: they did, and Lincoln were one of the sides to be relegated in their place. Oldham improved steadily, culminating in a play-off semi-final defeat to QPR in 2002-03. At the end of the following season, Sheridan finally decided to retire from playing at the age of 39. He had scored 108 goals from 770 first-class matches.
His coaching career had begun in earnest during that final season at Oldham, becoming joint-caretaker manager between the departure of Iain Dowie and the arrival of Brian Talbot. It was his second spell as caretaker, having taken charge of one game in 2001-02. The step up to permanent manager finally came in June 2006 when Ronnie Moore was sacked after a disappointing end to the season saw Oldham miss out on a League One play-off place. He took Oldham to the playoffs in his first season after finishing sixth, but the promotion bid was ended by a 5-2 aggregate defeat to Blackpool. The momentum was not maintained in 2007-08 with Oldham well off the pace, and despite a good start to 2008-09 season, Sheridan departed in March 2009 after a poor run of results and rumours of a bust-up with the players.
He was not out of the game for long, being named manager of League Two Chesterfield in June 2009. Chesterfield missed the playoffs by two points in his first season, but took the title by a clear five-point margin in 2010-11, the season Lincoln lost their place in the League. The following season brought mixed emotions as Chesterfield won the Football League Trophy with a 2-0 win over Swindon at Wembley. League form was not as good, and Chesterfield were comfortably relegated straight back to League Two. After a poor start to the 2012-13 season, Sheridan was placed on garden leave and resigned a few weeks later.
He next appeared at struggling League Two side Plymouth in January 2013 on a short-term contract to the end of the season. Plymouth were second from bottom and facing relegation from the League for the first time, but a good run of results saw them survive by a single point after a run of five wins from seven games in March and April. He was rewarded with a permanent three-year contract, and Plymouth were sitting in the play-off places in March 2014 when a poor run of one win in nine left them eleven points behind at the end of the season. They reached the playoffs in 2014-15 but went down 5-3 on aggregate to Wycombe in the semi-finals. At the end of the season, Sheridan resigned to return to his home in the north.
Curiously, his next stop was Newport County in the south. Taking over the Football League’s bottom side in October, a brief revival lifted Newport out of the bottom two before Sheridan resigned after four months to take the vacant job at former club Oldham. The Latics were third bottom of League One at the time, five points from safety, but Sheridan performed his usual escape act to keep them in the division by a clear eight points. Despite Oldham’s attempts to keep him, Sheridan immediately departed for Notts County, struggling in the lower reaches of League Two. Things started very well at Meadow Lane as County sat in the playoffs at the end of October. Then a disastrous run of nine successive defeats dumped them into the bottom two, and Sheridan was sacked on 2 January 2017. More bad news followed when details of an abusive attack on referee Eddie Ilderton emerged, resulting in a five-game touchline ban.
Where could Sheridan go after that? Answer: Oldham Athletic, for his fifth spell as manager. Oldham were bottom of League One at the time and had just been dumped out of the FA Cup by a certain non-league side. Could he repeat the escapology act yet again? Oldham won five of his first eight games, and safety was secured with a 1-1 draw with neighbours Rochdale in the penultimate game. The momentum was not carried over into the 2017-18 season with five defeats from the first five games and, following a further two defeats in September, he left Oldham with the club bottom of League One with four points from nine games. Incredibly, he turned up at Fleetwood Town in February 2018 with the club only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. Could Houdini strike again? The impact was immediate, with four wins and three draws in his first seven games carrying Fleetwood to mid-table safety. However, rumours began to emerge that former Premier League player Joey Barton was to replace Sheridan at the end of the season, and it came as no surprise when he departed in April.
And now it is on to Carlisle United, his seventh job in four years. Can John Sheridan show that he is more than a relegation firefighter? Will he stay for longer than four months? Fans are generally impressed by his appointment, and season ticket sales are up. Time will tell.
P = Promoted; R = Relegated; SF = Lost in play-off semi-final; F = Lost in play-off final; PO = Won play-off final; D = Demoted.
Figures are league games only; cup matches and playoffs are not included.
League position shown is either the position at the end of the season or the position at the time of departure.
* Joint caretaker manager with Billy Urmson
** Joint caretaker manager with David Eyres
— Vital Lincoln City (@VitalLincoln) June 29, 2018