Date:Thursday February 21 2008
Stuck on the bench and career goal total 349, is Teddy Sheringham preparing to play out his Colchester contract before joining son Charlie in Denmark?
So the truth is out - Edward Paul Sheringham no bionic man after all. He isn`t a reincarnation of TV`s fictional character Steve Austin, even if his bank balance would allow him to legitimately pose as a Six Million Dollar Man. How about The Saint, instead? Not likely, after last week`s early substitution and shirt-snatching sulk down the tunnel.
Do not adjust your set: Colchester`s most senior squad member expressed an obvious displeasure at being withdrawn against Preston and in doing so pricked the bubble of professionalism that was until now presumed his natural aura. Back in August, Teddy was hailed a Hercules against Sheffield United, scorching blades of grass for fun and playing a full game after minimal action for West Ham the previous season.
Now, Sheringham`s star has fallen slightly -a sending off against Coventry earlier this term and just three goals have certainly dampened original clamour beginning the deep-lying target man to donate his body to medical science.
For a second last Tuesday night, at least, the writing looked to be very much on the wall and the manager`s autocue well and truly in the bin. As a lead-legged Teddy drudged from the field with a sloth that belies even his 41 years, the mind began to compile another episode to add to that list of the icon gone bad. Aging rock star drives his Roles into the nearest swimming pool, you know the score; next the bushes twitch with flashbulbs and those privacy-pillaging Paparazzi.
Except this time it`s different, because the incident slipped off the radar; barley a column inch has been written on the issue in the wake of Colchester`s first home win in nine attempts. The euphoric haze of a last-gasp win that saw the U`s pogo two places from the foot of the Championship has covered Sheringham`s most clouded hours. A seething Teddy has been left with his career goal tally still cruelly frozen at 349 and probably just a slap on the wrist.
There`s been a buzz about it on the terraces, of course, but newswires remain distinctly dormant on the subject. Perhaps that is at the request of manager Geraint Williams, whose desire has always been to prevent the Sheringham saga from sucking the division`s smallest club into a backhoe of hype, ever since day one.
Like it or not, all one-man brands tend to come with an attached celebrity circus and that ethos, given Colchester`s defiant pride in their small-town regional status, conflicts with the U`s very ideology. At times last summer the very anticipation of his arrival turned that old journalistic mantra that news is people upside-down. News was person; one person, in fact. Observe in action the cult of personality.
Did Sheringham spit his dummy nine days ago, then, or throw the toys from his pram? Well, not exactly. The former Manchester United striker returned to the bench in time to see Colchester overturn their one-goal deficit and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Those in the media gantry most likely put his earlier fit of pique down to a burning desire to contribute to the team, rather than anything else.
Clearly, though, the one-time Premier League net-buster does not want to take up merely a supporting role. A glance at the CV tells you the odd B-movie or extra stint was never really his style. Amid new reports that Teddy`s wage tops nearly £8,000 per-week, the debate over Sheringham`s shelf-life goes on.
For a club like Colchester, that is by no means beans and there are those who rightly say it is a false economy to keep an old clothes-horse on the sidelines on the basis that it sells shirts. Super Ted, some argue, has reached the point where his body and mind can no longer work in synthesis - his speed, and automatic right to selection, is sadly surrendered.
Alternately, instead of redressing the bank balance, others believe Williams ought to re-wire his side, giving Sheringham the opportunity to win a contract extension on his current deal. The penalty-box assassin still has much to offer, say his staunch admirers, but the rest of the XI around him are unable to read his seal-like repertoire of flicks, jinks or dummy-runs. Put him in a team like Charlton, who were supposedly interested in the summer, and wait for a Goal Rush.
Whichever is best, Sheringham maintains a steely image of an unwilling passenger on the boat of advancing age, despite the fact that he has simply been roving the reserves or spent his working weekend chained to the technical area of late.
Each close-season for at least the last five years, the Grim Reaper has invited United`s number eight to take the alluring journey across the river styx toward retirement, but Teddy has rebuffed a place on the sporting scrapheap in favour of prolonging his love-affair with the Beautiful Game.
His desire to continue that theme became concrete when nailed his squad number to the Blue 'n` White mast in Essex last July; this was one of many culpable as charged for joining the frenzied appraisal of the former England forward as a solution to everything Colchester United. Putting pressure on him to single-handedly win games at his age, though, makes about as much sense burdening Wayne Rooney with the same expectation when dons the national kit.
Out of summer`s shimmering heyday, Sheringham`s arrival, and a sprinkling of stardust comes this bleak summary. Geraint Williams must play the weighing scales game in an attempt decide whether to exercise the contact option on Colchester`s most famous hired gun in footballing history.
But, with January addition Scott Vernon already earmarked as Sheringham`s natural long-term replacement - at seventeen years younger - you get the feeling Teddy might not wait for the guillotine of rejection to cut short his say. This is a player will have seen his Manchester team-mates David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Roy Keane all suffer the ignominy of a left-stage exit, don`t forget.
The whisper is that the oldest outfield player in the Football League is ready to quit the daily grind anyway, by swapping the Essex coast for Denmark in three months. Sheringham senior may fulfil his last remaining career ambition to play with son Charlie by pulling on the Fremad Amager jersey as of 2008-9.
Nobody would begrudge him that privilege. It`s just that the headline X Factor to Ex-factor is probably not how an authentic modern legend in the round ball world would have envisaged this brief time in stripes being remembered.
Date:Thursday February 21 2008
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