KEVIN SHEEDY saw John Lundstram take his first steps in the game and believed the Scouser would stride all the way to the top in England.
Now he will watch his former protege aim to conquer the continent after proving his talent and his mentality by becoming an integral part of the Rangers midfield.
Lundstram spoke gratefully about the role that Sheedy played in his career on the night that he fired Rangers into the Europa League final with victory over RB Leipzig at Ibrox.
The pair formed a close working relationship as Lundstram rose through the ranks at Everton but it would take longer than either expected for him to make his mark.
Loan spells at the likes of Doncaster and Blackpool were beneficial for the midfielder. After establishing himself in the Premier League with Sheffield United, he is now hitting new heights at Rangers as he prepares for his shot at glory against Eintracht Frankfurt.
“Right from the first day of coaching John, he was a well-mannered young man with a great attitude to the game,” Sheedy said. “He gave his all every day on the training ground, which you need to do as a young player.
“I could see him getting better. I was coaching him with the Under-18s. He was a regular – first name on the team sheet every week because of his attitude and his leadership skills.
“He moved on up to the 21s and 23s. Unfortunately he was then released but I always looked out for his career because I knew he was a good player.
“John stepped down the leagues, which players sometimes have to do, and I have been so pleased to see how he’s progressed since. He’s played in the Premier League and is now doing ever so well up at Rangers.
“To get the winning goal to take Rangers to a Europa League final is just special. I watched the semi-final on telly and the atmosphere at Ibrox was unbelievable.
“That’s what football is all about. For John to play such a major role in it is fantastic for him and his family.”
That early setback of being released at Goodison Park turned out to be the making of Lundstram and he would rebuild his career with the determination that he is now one of his trademarks.
He has shown that strength of character this term, too. After an unspectacular start to life at Ibrox, he has now become a favorite fan and a mainstay for boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Sheedy said: “To be a professional footballer, you need a lot of attributes. Mental strength is probably the top one you need. You take a lot of knocks in the game.
“John got released by Everton but he rolled his sleeves up and was determined to work his way back up the ladder. Where he is now and the success he is having is full credit to him.
“It was about his attitude. He also had an athleticism. You need that in the modern game and John has it in abundance.
“He can get about the pitch but there is also quality alongside his leadership skills. He was the captain and someone who inspired the other players as well.
“I think he’d carried that on throughout his career. Really, I can not speak highly enough about him.”
Lundstram will look to lead by example once again this evening but none of his team-mates should need any extra motivation give what is at stake in the Europa League final.
Sheedy would taste domestic and continental glory with Everton after making the move across Liverpool from Anfield to Goodison in 1982 and he is still revered in the city.
A place in Ibrox folklore now awaits Lundstram. Such chances do not come around often and the opportunity must be seized in Seville.
“Unfortunately we only had one opportunity with Everton because of the European ban at the time,” Sheedy said. “But to actually win the trophy is something that still gets spoken about more than 30 years on.
“You look back on it with pride. Supporters you meet in the street, certainly the ones who were there, will always want to talk about it.
“It’s a great opportunity within any career. I’ve certainly got my fingers crossed for Rangers and John that they can win the trophy.
“Watching the semi-final at Ibrox was unbelievable. It made me think back to playing Bayern Munich in the semi-finals in 1985.
“The second leg was at Goodison and the atmosphere on the night was the best I ever played in.
“When we got the third goal, it was like the roof came off and it was the same at Rangers when John scored. It was 3-1 on both nights, too.
“We went onto win the trophy so hopefully Rangers can do the same. Both teams in blue and white, so why not?”
The victory over Leipzig – earned thanks to Lundstram’s late strike – will fondly be remembered as one of the finest occasions that Ibrox has ever played host to.
The bar must be raised once again in terms of the performance this evening and Sheedy has no doubt over one man who will relish the pressure after reading Lundstram’s kind sentiments a fortnight ago.
“He will,” Sheedy said when asked if Lundstram would relish the big game occasion in Seville. “And those are the sorts of characters you need in your team.
“They have to perform to a high level in the big games. John and Rangers are more than capable of doing that that. As I say, I will be watching the final with my fingers crossed.
“It was really nice to read that article. Someone sent me it and I really appreciated his words.
“I’ve coached many players over the years. You do the job and it’s difficult to keep track of all those who worked with as their careers develop elsewhere.
“John also spoke highly of Steven Gerrard in terms of getting him up to Rangers. He obviously saw what attributes he had. Everything that has happened now is full testament to John, absolutely.”