Stevenage F.C.’s decision to appoint Teddy Sheringham as their new manager, following Graham Westley’s departure, will inevitably be described as a ‘risk’ by vast swathes of the media and the football-supporting public. It is Sheringham’s first managerial position, following on from a single season’s coaching experience. Still, whilst the former England international striker is an unproven ex-pro heading into uncharted territory, there is plenty of reason to believe he’ll succeed.
For Stevenage’s part, the club’s board have decided on a bold – and admirable – change of direction. The outspoken Graham Westley has been perhaps the most influential and successful figure in Stevenage F.C.’s modern history. He guided the club into the Football League in his second (of three) stints as manager, in 2010, and just 12 months later took the club into League One. But after returning for a third spell, Westley has struggled to replicate those results, and after recent play-off heartbreak against Southend United, the club have (by all accounts amicably) parted company with the experienced boss.
By selecting Sheringham as his replacement, The Boro (as Stevenage are still known) have clearly opted for less of a safe choice, both in terms of the manager’s experience, and their own experience of the manager (Sheringham having never played in the same division as his new employers). However, throughout more than three decades in the game, first as player and most recently as a coach, Sheringham has proven himself to be astute, versatile, forward-thinking and an enduring symbol of fitness and professionalism for any young footballer looking for an example to follow.
As a player, Sheringham’s achievements were, on paper, remarkable. He won promotion to English football’s top tier with two different clubs. He lifted Premier League Titles, a European Cup, an FA Cup, and, during a brief spell in Sweden, the Division 2 Norra. What remains more remarkable than the honours themselves, are the varied stages of career he lifted trophies in. Sheringham proved willing and able to adapt to football abroad, whilst still a teenager, tasting promotion with Sweden’s Djurgårdens IF. His two promotions from the present-day Championship came 17 years apart – in 1988 and 2005 – and relied on the skills of a pacy, tenacious young Sheringham, and an older, wiser professional who had learnt to read the game expertly.
Well into his thirties, the man affectionately known as ‘Teddy’ showed an incredible commitment and discipline regarding fitness, remaining a key part of Manchester United’s seemingly endless success, and causing goalkeepers as much anxiety as ever before. At the close of his career, Sheringham featured for Colchester at the grand age of 42, showing a willingness to continue developing his game through a new challenge, even when the lights of Layer Road were not as bright or as lucrative as those of Old Trafford.
It’s also impossible to deny the wisdom Sheringham will have imbibed from playing under some of English football’s most revered managers. The Brian Clough who managed Teddy at Nottingham Forest had faded from the irascible master of previous decades, but was still an inspiring figure and a disciplined taskmaster. Sir Alex Ferguson, Sheringham’s boss for four seasons, seems to have instilled the obsessive desire to win, and to never give up, into all of his charges of that epoch. Sheringham’s list of former employers also means that he’s not short of experience of high-pressure situations like the play-offs which Stevenage recently fell short in. This is a man who’s won promotion the hard way (as play-off winners often like to say), and much more…
As West Ham’s Attacking Coach, he took the job as seriously as Sam Allardyce takes attacking an unguarded steak pie. Sheringham has been widely credited with aiding the development of incoming overseas talent like Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, and the resurgence of the troubled Stewart Downing. During the past season, The Mirror penned a feature on Sheringham the coach, claiming that he had had “immense footballing intelligence as a striker”. It is hardly a stretch to say that that intelligence is likely to cross over into his managerial career. Those at Broadhall Way have cause to be optimistic.