Sheringham: Harry Kane is England’s only world class star
TEDDY SHERINGHAM EXCLUSIVE: Former Tottenham and Man United star on why England have no chance at the World Cup, managing in India and his favourite football memory (no, it’s NOT winning the Treble…)
When Teddy Sheringham was growing up in the East End, there was a word used all too frequently. With money scarce, the term ‘skint’ was a familiar one.
‘Never again — I never want to hear that word again,’ says Sheringham as he reflects on his spell in India with the ATK club of Kolkata. The slums in that huge, sprawling city are notorious.
Hearing about them is one thing. Seeing them at first hand left an indelible mark.
Teddy Sheringham is back in Britain after a spell in charge of Indian Super League outfit ATK
Sheringham’s time with the Kolkata outfit saw him reunited with striker Robbie Keane (right)
Sheringham was raised in gritty Highams Park near Chingford, where you had to learn quickly to stand on your own two feet.
‘People perceive you in different ways,’ says Sheringham. ‘They always seemed to think I had a few quid. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were often skint. Or I thought we were. Since I’ve been to India, I can’t use that word any more.’
Sheringham had a six-month spell as boss of ATK — previously known as Atletico de Kolkata. But while he lived a cosseted existence as a player, he made sure to leave the five-star luxury of his hotel to see the city and the reality of life. It had an immense impact.
‘Looking back to when I was growing up, we had our own house,’ he says. ‘OK, I didn’t have the best gear that the other kids seemed to have but we had our own house.’ That’s a luxury denied to thousands of people in Kolkata.
A short walk from his hotel, he saw the deprivation for himself.
‘Just down the road from where I was staying, I am seeing people that are living under a shelter, six feet by six feet,’ he said. ‘Nothing like a house. It was a shelter. And there were at least four people in each shelter as a family. Washing? That was done in a pond at the end of the street. Then the clothes were put out to dry in the middle of the street so that the sheets would be dry for the next night.
‘And much of the day they would be scrambling for food. It was a real eye-opener. The poverty in India was staggering. I had never seen anything like that.
‘It was an experience in life as well as football. It was memorable and I am glad I did it.’
The trip also saw him witness shocking poverty which made him re-evaluate his own childhood
He said: ‘It was an experience in life as well as football. It was memorable and I am glad I did it’
Sheringham is back in England but his tough time in management has not soured him from future involvement in the game. He was sacked at Stevenage, his first managerial job, and his contract was also terminated at Kolkata. But those jobs were preceded by a successful time coaching the strikers at West Ham.
‘You never know what is going to happen in the future,’ says the 51-year-old, who still looks trim enough to be playing as he relaxes in a brasserie near his home in Loughton. ‘I came back from India with my assistant Kevin Keen. The day after we got back, he got asked to work with Chris Powell at Southend. He said, ‘Can you believe it? I have just got off the plane and been asked by Chris to go there’.
‘That just shows you. You never know what is going to happen in football. The job in India might be my last. I don’t want it to be — but it might be. That is how it is in football. I have taken a lot from the jobs I had at Stevenage and Kolkata. I don’t like to use excuses. I never have done. When you get it right, it is very fulfilling.
‘In India, we were not far away but when your top players are out injured it is a major thing for any team. Especially when you haven’t got the players in the squad to replace them. That makes it even tougher. In India, Robbie Keane was out for the first four games. My main Indian player — my first pick in the draft — did his cruciate after two games.
‘But has it put me off football? No. Has it soured me? No. It just gives you experience for the next job. I am very optimistic as a person. I have had unbelievable feedback from the players I was coaching out there.
‘Not only the foreign boys I took out there but the Indian lads as well. I loved working with them and it is obvious they loved my style. That is encouraging to hear. It makes me excited for my next challenge. I enjoyed my coaching spell at West Ham but the management side is where I would ultimately like to be.
‘Some people enjoy working on the development of young players, the academies. I prefer management. I didn’t regard it as pressure, it is a challenge. Bitter and twisted after what happened? No, no, no… far from it.’
Sheringham is keen to get back into management despite tough stints at ATK and Stevenage
‘Has it soured me? No. It just gives you experience for the next job,’ said a positive Sheringham
Many would think the stand-out moment in Sheringham’s career is obvious.
Surely it was the May evening in Barcelona in 1999, the dramatic finale to Manchester United’s Champions League final win over Bayern Munich, when he came on as a substitute with United trailing 1-0. In injury time he scored one and laid on the winner for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
They would be wrong.
Maybe when he won the Premier League title for the first time when United beat Tottenham — or even the FA Cup win over Newcastle in which he provided a dress rehearsal for the Nou Camp… coming on as substitute, scoring and setting up a second for Paul Scholes.
Sheringham shakes his head. His real stand-out moment was May 2, 1988 when Millwall won 1-0 at Hull to reach the top flight of English football for the first time.
‘What we did at Millwall was a tremendous achievement,’ says Sheringham. ‘We had all come through the ranks and reached the First Division — what would now be the Premier League. We had an incredible camaraderie. That ‘No one likes us’ feel to us.
‘To get the club to the top division in English football for the first time in the club’s history was unforgettable. No one was the star. But we had some wonderful team players. I was just 23 and for someone of that age to experience it with the people who were around me was a great feeling.’
Sheringham made a crucial cameo to see Manchester United win the 1999 Champions League
But he cites getting Millwall promoted to the top tier as the standout moment in his career
And to Sheringham, the names just roll off the tongue — Terry Hurlock, Keith ‘Rhino’ Stevens, Alan McLeary, Tony Cascarino, Les Briley.
‘Hurlock was very under-rated,’ recalls Sheringham. ‘I loved playing with players like that who weren’t looking for the limelight themselves. They just keep the team ticking over, do their job.’
Before he was picked for Millwall, Sheringham was sent to toughen up at Aldershot. ‘That was part of my education and it helped me,’ he says. ‘It was a totally different game. In those two months I was wondering where the ball was!
‘It seemed like I only touched it six times in two months. I thought, ‘F*** me, I need to liven up my game to make sure I get in the first team at Millwall’.
‘I realised that the lower you go, it doesn’t get any easier. It showed me that whatever level you play at in English football, you have to compete. There were dodgy pitches and the refereeing was not so good. You could hear everyone in the crowd. And on a good day, there were 1,500 of them.’
Sheringham spoke to Sportmail over a warm drink in a brasserie near his home in Loughton
Fifty-one-year-old Sheringham is in great shape and he still looks trim enough to be playing
In almost a quarter of a century as a player, Sheringham came into conflict and contact with many high-profile names. He has played with Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Roy Keane, Jurgen Klinsmann and Tony Adams.
Adams and Sheringham were allies rather than enemies when it came to England and he earned many of his 51 caps with the Arsenal legend as a team-mate.
‘A strong, determined defender,’ is Sheringham’s verdict. ‘A real leader. And a good player.’
Mind you, Sheringham lined up with quite a few who could live up to that label, like Roy Keane. ‘I played with him at Nottingham Forest and Manchester United,’ he says. ‘He was the leader among men. The definitive one. You would want him in the trenches with you.
‘He was resilient and a winner. He would always have something to say and knew the right moment to say it.
‘He would make sure we were on the straight and narrow. When he wasn’t there, we had something missing. Among all the fantastic players we had, he was the leader.’
United forward Sheringham and Arsenal centre back Tony Adams were rivals at club level
But they were team-mates on the international scene and both made the ’98 World Cup squad
Gascoigne was another who made a huge impression. ‘He was unbelievably talented,’ says Sheringham. ‘He wasn’t just a fancy Dan who flitted about. He was hard to play against and strong in the tackle.
‘He could shrug people off. He had that mentality of ‘Give me the ball, I will show you how good I am. I can play this game. I am the leader. You lot follow’.’
The manager of England then was Terry Venables. ‘Different class,’ is Sheringham’s instant assessment. ‘My absolute favourite of all the managers I worked for. He had a wonderful way of giving you confidence. He explained everything so everyone could understand it. All the tactics.
‘In the Euro 96 squad, you are bound to get people who are unhappy with not playing, but I don’t know anyone who had a bad word to say about him. He was good at making everyone feel they were part of everything. It looked as though that would be a special tournament but for penalties… ‘
There is also strong admiration for Sir Alex Ferguson, his manager at United when they won the treble.
‘He knew everything that was going on in Manchester,’ he says. ‘I found that out on a couple of occasions! I had a couple of one-to-ones with him. I didn’t go there until I was 31 and stepped out of line on a couple of occasions.
‘He came down on me like a ton of bricks and fined me a week’s wages twice. But then it was all forgotten. He would make sure you learned from your mistake.
‘And it was with him that we had that 1999 season. Winning the Premier League and FA Cup and then finish the season in two minutes at the end of the game — it was Roy of the Rovers stuff. The number of people who have come up to me since and said they were there, I reckon there were 200,000 people in the stadium that night!’
Sheringham is full of admiration for ex-manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who was his boss at United
SHERINGHAM’S TOP HONOURS
Three Premier League titles (1998-99, 99-00, 00-01)
One FA Cup (98-99)
One Champs League (98-99)
…AND HIS RECORD IN THE DUGOUT
— Won 7, Drew 10, Lost 16, Win% 21.2
— Won 3, Drew 3, Lost 4, Win% 30
These days, the No 10 shirt at Tottenham is worn by a player who grew up aware of Sheringham’s iconic status — and there is nothing but praise for Harry Kane from Sheringham: ‘It is like he is saying to himself at the end of every season, “Where do I go from here? How can I get better?” He keeps on improving.
‘That is tough to do when you are as high up the ladder as he is.
‘If he was up for sale, he could go anywhere, no problem. And that is why Tottenham need to keep him. They need to win something this year, they need to keep him happy, pay him more money so he is on a parallel with other top players.
‘You probably wouldn’t have to break the bank to keep him. He is a happy man, a contented man, and the club are on the way up. As long as that continues I am sure he will be happy.’
Sheringham rates Kane as the one world-class player at the disposal of his former England team-mate Gareth Southgate for the summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Tottenham goal-machine Harry Kane is another man who has earned Sheringham’s respect
Sheringham believes Tottenham must keep Kane but doesn’t think they need to break the bank
He says: ‘Can we do well in Russia? Honestly, no. If you are going to win a World Cup you have to have two or three world-class players… at least. England have one — Kane.
‘You look around the rest of the team and, yes, there are good players but some of them cannot even get into their club teams, which is terrible for English football. I love Gareth as a man and a person and I like what he is trying to do, but he’s up against it.
‘It is going to be a really tough summer. We just find it hard to win games in the World Cup.
‘We struggle with tournament football. We have had good squads over the years, but it is tough to take the English mentality to World Cups. Teams know the style.
‘Teams expect us to play that way. Other countries are more clever to our ways than we are to theirs. Gareth is trying to do it, but it is a tough task to ask him to do it with the players we have.
‘The foreign contingent in this country are over-running English players and that makes it hard for those English players to gain experience. Look at the way we went out of the last European Championship. If you get turned over by Spain or Italy and get battered by football… OK. But Iceland beat us at our own game. That was the worrying thing.’
Kane is England’s main man and their only current world class player according to Sheringham
‘Can we do well in Russia? Honestly, no’ — Sheringham’s damming pre-World Cup assessment