Premier League leg­end Sher­ing­ham’s ca­reer, from Mill­wall to Steve­nage

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

FOR a flashy show­boater with a big mouth and no pace, Teddy Sher­ing­ham didn’t do too badly. A Premier League ti­tle, FA and Euro­pean Cups, 51 caps for Eng­land and 355 goals in 899 ca­reer ap­pear­ances. Then there are the plau­dits.

From Gary Mab­butt, his skip­per at Spurs in the midnineties: “Teddy was among the best strik­ers and head­ers of the ball I’ve ever seen,” said the de­fender. “He was strong, he was clever and his tim­ing was ab­so­lutely spot on. He wasn’t blessed with pace, but he knew ex­actly where de­fend­ers did not want to go.”


From Alan Shearer, the other half of the fa­bled ‘SAS’ part­ner­ship that car­ried Eng­land to within a penalty kick of the Euro ‘96 fi­nal: “You can’t ex­plain how a part­ner­ship like that de­vel­oped,” said Shearer, the Premier League’s record scorer. “It just hap­pened.It wasn’t about the work we put in on the train­ing ground. Teddy just in­stinc­tively knew ev­ery run and ev­ery move­ment I’d make.”

From Terry Ven­ables, his man­ager for Tot­ten­ham and Eng­land: “Teddy is one of the best play­ers I have ever worked with,” said the for­mer Barcelona boss. “His move­ment, the way he read a game.You won’t find a striker out there who wasn’t happy to play along­side him. Just look at Jur­gen Klins­mann – he had a fab­u­lously suc­cess­ful ca­reer across Europe and for the Ger­man na­tional team. But of the many play­ers he part­nered, he al­ways said that Teddy was the most in­tel­li­gent.” Which to those who

watched the for­mer Tot­ten­ham and Manch­ester United man in his pomp, is hardly a rev­e­la­tion.

Yet those who re­mem­ber Sher­ing­ham as a cocky kid at Mill­wall feared he might never make the grade at the Den, let alone be­come a gar­landed su­per­star.

“I was a flash kid in those days,” said Sher­ing­ham in his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. “A real show­boater with a reper­toire of flicks and touches. I wasn’t in­ter­ested in scor­ing bor­ing goals – I wanted to bend them into the top cor­ner or chip the keeper.” This didn’t go down too well with his man­ager, the arch-prag­ma­tist Ge­orge Graham, who or­dered Sher­ing­ham to cut out the tricks. The head­strong teenager re­fused to lis­ten, prompt­ing an in­censed Graham to ship him out on loan, first to Fourth Di­vi­sion Alder­shot and then to Swedish side Djur­gar­den.

It was there, dur­ing a rev­e­la­tory run of 13 goals in 21 games, that the penny fi­nally dropped. “I re­alised it wasn’t just about me,” said Sher­ing­ham. “When you’re play­ing for money that can make a dif­fer­ence to peo­ple’s lives – we got £40 for a draw and £80 for a win – you owe some­thing to the other lads. I sud­denly re­alised the im­por­tance of what Ge­orge had been say­ing.”

Back in Graham’s good books, Sher­ing­ham took flight, forg­ing a leg­endary part­ner­ship with Tony Cas­carino and net­ting 22 goals as the Lions won pro­mo­tion up to the top-flight.

By that stage, his qual­i­ties were ob­vi­ous – vi­sion, move­ment, peer- less tech­nique. A poacher’s in­stinct mar­ried with an abil­ity to bring oth­ers into play.

Yet Cas­carino, whose son Teddy was named af­ter Sher­ing­ham, says one of his old mate’s hid­den strengths was his re­silience.

“When he was go­ing through a bad spell, our sup­port­ers were hav­ing a right go,” says the ex-Ir­ish in­ter­na­tional. “But Ted didn’t even blink. He knew he could play and no loud­mouth on the ter­races was ever go­ing to con­vince him oth­er­wise. He’s the only player I ever knew who could miss three oneon-ones and then try to chip the keeper! He had more self-belief and con­fi­dence than any­one else that I knew.”

Cas­carino also de­scribes a force­ful per­son­al­ity who – even as a young­ster – was con­fi­dent enough to or­der se­nior team­mates around.

It was a trait that left him at odds with Brian Clough, who signed him for Not­ting­ham For­est for £2m in 1991 and then in­sisted on call­ing him Ed­ward.


“Teddy is like a Dutch player,” said Frank McLin­tock. “He loves a de­bate – or an ar­gu­ment – about tac­tics and was never go­ing to be the sort to just buckle to Brian’s dom­i­neer­ing per­son­al­ity.”

At Spurs, Terry Ven­ables proved far more amenable, giv­ing Sher­ing­ham the cre­ative li­cence he’d al­ways craved. The re­sult was 76 goals in 166 games, a Premier League golden boot and that star­ring role at Euro ‘96, cul­mi­nat­ing in two goals against the Dutch.

A £3.5m move to Manch­ester United in 1997 (Sher­ing­ham said he wanted to “win some­thing”) was ini­tially met with mock­ing chants, re­mind­ing him that he’d ‘won f*** all’ af­ter a pot-less first cam­paign at United.

A year later he si­lenced the jeers with a win­ner in the FA Cup fi­nal against New­cas­tle and a cru­cial 90th-minute lev­eller in that stun­ning Cham­pi­ons League come­back against Bay­ern Mu­nich. At the age of 33, Sher­ing­ham had com­pleted the tre­ble.

Yet he was far from done. The striker would play on for another nine years, re­turn­ing to Spurs, help­ing Portsmouth con­sol­i­date top-flight sta­tus and scor­ing 21 Cham­pi­onship goals as West Ham sealed pro­mo­tion in 2005. To this day he re­mains both the Premier League’s old­est goalscorer (40 years, 268 days) and old­est out­field player (40 years, 272 days).

“His ca­reer lasted so long be­cause of his ap­petite for the game,” said for­mer Spurs skip­per Led­ley King. “I al­ways re­mem­ber him stay­ing back af­ter train­ing to prac­tice tech­nique with me and Si­mon Davies. His en­thu­si­asm and keen­ness, even at 35 or 36, was a great ex­am­ple. He was also very com­pet­i­tive – af­ter train­ing he’d see if any­one wanted to play golf. He didn’t care about age. He still wanted to be the best.”

For a while, it seemed Sher­ing­ham’s in­volve­ment in football would end with his re­tire­ment in 2008, with a suc­cess­ful ca­reer on the world poker scene more than enough to top up the pen­sion.

But af­ter a spell as for­wards coach at West Ham un­der Sam Al­lardyce, Sher­ing­ham joined Steve­nage and is once again learn­ing from the bot­tom up.

“I think get­ting in­volved here gave him that spark,” said Al­lardyce. “It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for him and maybe he’s re­alised he doesn’t just want an easy life.”

PIC: Ac­tion Im­ages

NEW TRICKS: Sher­ing­ham is back as a man­ager, seven years af­ter hang­ing up his boots

RED DEVIL: Sher­ing­ham won the tre­ble with Man Utd af­ter join­ing from Spurs

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