One-on-one: Teddy Sheringham and his first love (Part one)
Having won trophy after trophy during his time at Manchester United, one would expect Teddy Sheringham to name Old Trafford as the place where he had the best time of his life.
Only it wasn’t.
Make no mistakes, Sheringham did enjoy success beyond his wildest dreams at ‘The Theatre of Dreams’.
But when all was said and done, the former England international could only look back fondly to the place where it all had began — at Millwall.
eople are always very surprised when I mention Millwall as my best time. We all came through the ranks together ... from youth team football to reserves, then getting into the first team and having success by getting to top-flight for the first time in the club's history
“People are always very surprised when I mention Millwall as my best time. We all came through the ranks together ... from youth team football to reserves, then getting into the first team and having success by getting to top-flight for the first time in the club's history,” Sheringham told FourFourTwo.
“It was just amazing times and to do it with your young lads growing up and hoping to achieve, and then managing it and getting it together was really fulfilling times as a young footballer.”
Sheringham joined the Lions as a 16-year-old in 1982 and after two loan spells – Aldershot in Fourth Division and Djurgarden in Sweden – he cemented his place in the starting lining-up, going on to become the club’s all-time top scorer with 111 goals, a record that stood until 2009.
Sheringham stayed with Millwall for another season after they were demoted to the Second Division (now known as the Championship) in 1990. He ended the 1990-91 season with 37 goals in all competitions before being lured away by top flight sides.
He played one season at Nottingham Forest in the top flight before moving to Tottenham Hotspur in 1992 for the all-new English Premier League, finishing top scorer with 21 league goals. He later enjoyed a second spell at White Hart Lane.
Sheringham moved to United in 1997 following the retirement of a certain Eric Cantona and spent four seasons there, winning just about everything he could have asked for, including the Players’ Player of the Year Award at the age of 35.
Sometimes I think that was above my dreams … I didn't even dream that far
“I enjoyed all of my time. I was brought up to enjoy and appreciate what I had and my dad always made it clear to look at the bright side of things,” he said.
“I enjoyed my year at Nottingham Forest before I moved to Tottenham, where I was released as a youngster … to get the chance to come back and be bought for £2mil was fantastic. To then play there for five lovely years was something I enjoyed.
“The chance to play United was an unbelievable dream come true as well. Sometimes I think that was above my dreams … I didn't even dream that far.”
England debut at 26 and first major trophy seven years later, Sheringham had his doubts
Sheringham’s career, however, looked like it was never going to really take off.
Despite being gifted with talent, he played in an era where the likes of Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand, Andy Cole and a young Robbie Fowler battled for the Three Lions jersey.
Sheringham awaited eagerly for an international call-up but it wasn’t till his mid-20s in 1993 did that call come. Yet, it wasn’t until he was 28 in 1995 did he truly cement a starting role alongside Alan Shearer.
Major trophies deserted him as well, with his first major silverware coming at United at the age of 33 in 1999. What a first it was though as Sheringham was part of that famous Treble winning squad.
Did Sheringham ever feel his chance at the big time would never come?
“Yeah, you think of that. People say I didn't win anything but we won the Championship with Millwall and then to Forest, where we did well in different Cups,” said Sheringham.
Not many footballers get to win things. When you average out how many people win things over the years, I didn’t feel hard done by or anything like that
“So I tasted a little of glory but the actual big things … when you don’t make your international debut, you wonder. There was a bit of talk whether I would get a call-up when I was 24 or 25 but when it came 26 it was a little bit of shock.
“To join United at 31 was just ‘wow’. When I left Tottenham, the idea was to go somewhere bigger ... I wasn’t happy with how things were being run there. I left to go on to win things, which is exactly what we did at United.
“I wasn’t really making up for lost time there. I enjoyed my career everywhere I was. Not many footballers get to win things. When you average out how many people win things over the years, I didn’t feel hard done by or anything like that,” he said.