Teddy Sheringham Exclusive

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On England And The Nations League

What do you make of the Nation’s League, Teddy? Do you agree with the likes of de Bruyne and VVD who think the tournament is unimportant?

I could likely agree with that, being honest, but I do suppose it's better than friendlies. It gives international games a little bit of impetus, but I haven’t been blown away with the format of it as I haven't been when UEFA have made tweaks to other club tournaments.

 

What do you think of these players playing four games in eleven days after such a long season?

You're often going to have that. The national team will have games that need to be played at the end of a season; England have to get their preparation in for the World Cup. Gareth hasn't used the same team, every game he is chopping and changing and he is using these matches to look at players before and systems before November for the World Cup. With the scheduling, it's just one of those things where England are one of a number of nations, who are having to play four matches in a short period of time. At least the players haven't got a tournament this summer and there will shortly be a break before they go again and start preparation for the new season, and then go straight into the World Cup in November. With the added rest this summer and the World Cup starting when players should be hitting form, the World Cup could work out very well for us. 

 

Have you been concerned by any of the performances or anything like that, Teddy? I mean, England are struggling for goals and are sat at the bottom of the group at the moment.

Now, no, I'm not concerned. Gareth is using the games to shuffle his pack and the matches are not as intense as qualifiers or tournament football. I know there's always going to be scrutiny when it comes to England performances. 

The players are performing without pushing themselves; they are not giving that little bit extra as you’d expect them to in tournament football. They are not going right over the edge when you're trying to get a goal in that last minute and if you don’t you’re knocked out. It looks to me that the players could possibly give a little bit more, but it's all about time. You want them to do that in the World Cup when it really matters. I’m not concerned. 

 

What did you think of the match against Italy?

I thought we did okay. The Italians are a tough opposition who worked very hard. It wasn't like a stroll in the park. I thought they were at it. Good and proper. It was an intense game. I know there were no goals, but it was a good test for us again to work on keeping the ball against a very good team. I thought we kept the ball a lot better than we have in the past - especially compared to the European Championship final when we couldn't keep the ball in the last part of the game. That's something that we're always working on in the England team. And I thought we were better at it last night. 

 

Who do you think are the players that Southgate should build his team around for the World Cup? 

Kane is our main man still without a doubt. Declan Rice is performing brilliantly every time I see him play whether it be for West Ham or England. I think the middle of the park has always been a key area for a good England team. Harry Maguire has had his problems but I thought he was steady last night and he needs to get that consistency back again. I was pleased to see Ramsdale play yesterday. I thought he played very well and looked competent. He gives us another option in goal. Having a strong spine is the most important part and I think we have that and then you look to build around it. 

 

Are there any are there any players that that haven't been given an opportunity that you'd like to see given a chance

One player I’m delighted to see get his chance is Jarrod Bowen. I think he’s looked lively in these Nations League games and he deserves the opportunity to play for England after an outstanding season. I think England could benefit by having Danny Ings in the squad. He can fill in the little spaces around Kane. I think the two of them could work brilliantly together, whether from the start or with Danny as an option from the bench. Danny Ings is like a little terrier - he is a nuisance for defenders, knows where the back of the net is and has confidence in his own ability. He's at the right age. I'd like to see him back around the England team, because he's got something about him. He carries himself well and would be ready. Whatever stage he's played on, he’s done it. Personally I’d give him the biggest stage of all - at the World Cup. 

 

I think that England has one of the best groups of players in world football. We've got an abundance of attacking players. Sometimes I think it'd be fair to say that we're not necessarily getting the best out of those players from an attacking point of view. What are your thoughts on the style of play?

Gareth Southgate understands what the England team needs to do to get to the next step. Historically, England have always had problems keeping the ball against the best international teams. The top international teams don’t struggle with possession, they have a resiliency. This is where he is doing most of his work. He's working on that intensely. Dominating possession and ball retention allows teams to keep their energy; you don't want to be running around chasing after it. Gareth knows that. He's played in Terry Venables’ England teams, and I think he was the best manager I’ve worked with on ball retention, and Gareth has definitely taken that approach with this England team and they are moving in the right direction.  

The whole team understands what he wants. Pep Guardiola does it at City and I think he's fantastic. He's told his players this is how we're going to play, this is what we're going to do. I think Gareth is doing something similar with England. It's not quite there, but we're heading in the right direction.

 

It’s a long way out, but how do you feel about England and the World Cup - what is the minimum they should be looking to achieve at the tournament? 

When you're progressing as a team, when you've got to semi-finals and finals, then the next logical step is looking to win one of these competitions. There are expectations now because he and his team have created them. I think we have a tremendous advantage with the World Cup being played in November with our top players firing on all cylinders. I also think that there won’t be a home advantage for one of the bigger nations that we’ve seen in tournaments in the past - nobody is expecting Qatar to do too much. You can't expect them to get to the final or even anywhere near it. 

All the big nations are on a level playing field from that point of view, which is good for us going to Qatar. We've had good results in recent tournaments and we need to progress again now. England is becoming a dominant nation in international football. We should expect to win. If we don’t get to the final, they’ll be a camp of people who may feel that’ll be the end of the road for Gareth with this England side - everybody expects us to do very well now. If we don't, it'll feel like we've gone backwards. 

Gareth knows this. He needs to get to the World Cup Final otherwise you could argue his good work to date, will be lost. Thinking back to when I played for England, we failed because we didn't get to any finals or win any competitions. No one remembers the losers, but I think he is the man for the job. I think he can handle the pressure. Look at everything that he’s had to deal with while he’s been in charge; look at how he protects his players and how the players respond to him. He’s been the perfect fit for England and I think he has done a brilliant job. I hope he can continue his fine work so far.


On Manchester United

You expressed a desire for United to appoint Poch as manager because of his playing style and Premier League experience, but they’ve gone with ten Hag. You’ve been critical of the way the club has been run - what did you make of the appointment?

I don't know an awful lot about ten Hag, but he's got a tough job on his hands. The scale of the job at Man United is huge and I felt that, at this moment in time, United needed someone that knows and has experience of the Premier League, which ten Hag doesn’t have. He will not know all his players inside out yet. He doesn't know how fast it's going to be or the intensity of the League. It can take managers and players six months to come to terms with it. There’s a chance that United may be in limbo until the break for the World Cup as he is learning about the Premier League on the job. 

He'll be speaking to people that have had the job previously. I’m sure he’s already spoken with van Gaal, but it's a huge job. 

There's so many egos in the dressing room. He needs to find out which of his players has the energy and commitment to get the club back to the top level again quickly. He needs to establish who's on his side and get rid of anyone that doesn’t have what it takes to knuckle down and fight for cause. 

There is a massive recruitment job. He needs to get players in with the right character and who understand the challenges of playing in the Premier League. Where is he going to find these players? I'm seeing the rumours about de Jong. He hasn't played in the Premier League and has been playing for Barcelona, who are expected to pretty much beat nearly every other team. Many of Barca’s domestic opponents roll over for them throughout the season. That doesn’t happen in the Premier League - every game is a battle.  

The pace and quality of the league could be a shock to the system for ten Hag and a player like de Jong. United could have a season of absolute chaos again next year.

Obviously, he's a good manager. Manchester United have done their homework, and they're hoping he's going to do good things and I would wish him all the best.

 

He’s brought in Steve McClaren to work alongside him. How do you think McClaren will help him? 

McClaren will help him understand the ethos of Manchester United and its history, while also leaning into his experiences of winning things alongside Sir Alex. Sir Alex always let his players know that it was an honour for them to play for United and what United means to the people and the city of Manchester. He would speak about the Busby Babes, the legends that played for the club. These are powerful things and bring people together. United runs deep and Steve understands that. And he will make sure that the players, if they don’t already, understand that too. 

It's hard for ten Hag to understand that right away. Steve will help him - he has been part of United’s history. 

 

There are many former United players, legends like yourself, that are active within the media. ten Hag’s former club Ajax and Bayern integrate legends within their set-up - would you like to see United follow a similar path and how could having these guys involved more help the club? 

Yes, I do. I think when you're a foreign manager, who is just starting out at a club, I don't think it will happen. He's going to bring his own people in, which I understand. I wish I'd brought my own staff with me when I was involved in football management because it makes the job easier. You need people in there that support you and have your back. You need a close knit group so that there's no little whispers coming out. 

If he were to bring back legends, he won't know that he has their trust. He will bring in players and staff that he knows and trusts - people that can get on with things in the way he wants. I don't see legends coming into Manchester United. I think that ship has sailed.

 

It's tricky. In many ways It feels like a clean break might be needed for United, but it must be difficult to move on from the United of the past.

The United job isn’t like any other job in football because United are not like any other club in football. This is an immense job for anyone, whatever angle you look at it from. United are at a crossroads at this particular moment. The club could slide even further. I can't stress how tough this job is, managing Manchester United right now. Everything has been sliding out of control. People say it can’t get any worse, it can get worse. If the club isn’t structured right from top to bottom and put on the right path, then United could slide even further.

 

I read that ten Hag is looking to instil some real discipline within the club in the model of Sir Alex. Do you think that approach will work with this crop of players / player power etc. and could you share an insight into some of the techniques Sir Alex had and which ones you think ten Hag should replicate?

I think that it would be very good for ten Hag to instil some discipline at the club, but I think it's very difficult to do that nowadays. It’s hard to rule with an iron fist and modern players don’t respond well to it. Sir Alex would always use discipline in the right way and he would always get a response. He didn't just fly off the handle to anyone, he picked his targets carefully and he always knew when to act. He had a sixth sense and he knew when to dish out a bollocking. He knew the hair dryer would also have an affect on the other players that heard it. If ten Hag goes in there as the new manager and starts shouting and hollering at people in their faces, he will have to pick his targets carefully because if he picks the wrong player they will respond in the wrong way. 

Of the current squad, do you think there are any un-droppables and could you name three players he should be looking to build around? 

If you look at all the players last year, you have to ask ‘who has performed to the best of their capabilities?’ I don't see anyone. Everybody needs to step up to the plate if they're going to be staying at Manchester United. 

Look at the United spine, there are a lot of question marks. De Gea and Maguire are two examples of players who haven’t been at their best and people are asking questions. It’s tough times for United. I don't think there's anyone who can be assured of their spot in the United team next season. There aren’t three outstanding players that ten Hag should build the team around.

I like McTominay. He understands the club and can help other players. He has the right mentality and commitment. Is he is a good enough player to be an inspirational leader at a club like a Terry or an Adams, players that let everyone else understand the culture, the standards and lead by example as well as being world class footballers? 

You need a leader on the pitch - someone that can do the manager's bidding when the whistle blows and grab a game by the scruff of the neck. 

McTominay might not be the ideal choice for flair and that Manchester United swagger but he understands and he has a bit of drive about him. He would be the one player I would pick from the current crop. 


On Manchester United - Transfers

According to reports Frenkie de Jong has needed some convincing to become a potential Manchester United player. Do you think your former club still has the pulling power to attract the biggest names at the moment?  

Man United's still got the pulling power. They may not be able to compete with the absolute best teams for players because they don’t have Champions League football, but when Manchester United come calling, there's not too many players turning them down. United is a huge club with a huge history, they're just going in the wrong way at the moment. Some players may need convincing, but once a player gets to Man United, and he starts travelling around the world with them, he'll understand how big United are. 

 

Where do you think the club  needs urgent reinforcement this summer? 

United need reinforcements across the pitch. In particular Centre midfield, centre forward and on the wings. We're looking at five or six top players to needing to come in. You need players to come in with the right character who appreciate the size of the task and are ready to get United back to where they should be. 

It's a massive challenge. From a players point of view, if you were to pick between City or United, then you’re going to pick City every time at the moment. As a player, you want to play with the best players. Top players would love to slot in alongside de Bruyne or any of the world class players City have, the list is endless. They are the champions and they will be challenging for everything next season.

When you look at Manchester United, you don’t see that. There isn’t anyone there performing at the moment. it's such a despairing thought. 

If Ten Hag goes in there and turns things around, everything can change very quickly. 

 

From a players point of view, what advice would you give ten Hag in managing Ronaldo next season to get the best out of him given he will be 38 in February. 

A superstar like Ronaldo will demand to play. Ronaldo has to understand his own body as well and appreciate that he's not 28 anymore. He's not at the pinnacle of his career. It's a tough one because Manchester United fans want to see him out there because he can still produce moments of absolute brilliance.

Is he going to be perfect for the way ten Hag wants to play? ten Hag needs to work that out. He needs to think if Ronaldo will be a help or a hindrance. I think he’ll be a help because he's a world class player, but he doesn't have the mobility as much as he used to. I still couldn't tell you exactly what type of player Ronaldo is. He’s not a right winger anymore. He's not a number 10. He's not a centre forward. It’s hard to find the right balance with him.


On Tottenham

Given where Tottenham were when Conte was appointed and beating Arsenal in the race for the Champions League, you must be delighted with the impact that Conte had and the way Spurs finished the season? 

I’m delighted and so is everybody else in the camp. I don't think Tottenham could have made a better appointment. Conte has come in  and grabbed the club by the scruff of the neck. He had a clear plan and all of his players followed him. He’s galvanised the club from top to bottom and all of the players understand what it takes to become top players and a top team. They’ve totally bought into him and are on the journey with him - it is a totally different vibe at the club now. There is a totally different vibe between Tottenham and Arsenal; Spurs are fighting like a lion under him, whilst Arsenal faded at the business end of the season. Conte is taking his players with him and they are loving the ride.

 

Do you think that now, given the resources that are going to be available to Tottenham, and obviously the prestige of qualifying for the Champions League, there's a real opportunity now for Conte to actually take Tottenham to the next level, and, in many ways leave United and Arsenal further behind them.

With Arsenal I believe they could, but I don't think you're going to leave United behind you. If Tottenham can keep moving in the right manner. Getting fourth was a big moment for Spurs. Finishing above Arsenal was massive and Conte came out on top against Arteta. Now he has the upper hand when it comes to attracting players because the best players will choose Tottenham over Arsenal now. Arteta will have to convince targets to come with an ambition of getting into the Champions League, Conte doesn’t have that problem - Tottenham are there next season and players are impatient. Players don’t want to hopefully play in the Champions League, they want to play in the Champions League now for a manager that's got the ball rolling in the right direction. So yeah, it's a big time for Tottenham. If they use this advantage wisely, and the clubs run the right way it could be massive for both football clubs and shape the next five or six years, maybe even longer. 

 

I've read one of your comments where you said that Harry Kane should resist a move to United because you've just mentioned that Tottenham are on the right path. Do you think that they can match Kane's ambition? Can he win big trophies with Spurs now Conte’s in there?

Harry Kane will be looking at that and he will be thinking where the club goes next. He and Conte have taken the club to a position where they can either kick on and challenge for the biggest prizes or challenge for the top four again. He’ll be thinking, ‘are we going to have a Champions League run that'll get us to the quarterfinals and get knocked out? Or are we buying players now to say, we're going to the next level?’

I’m sure Conte will have assured Kane about his plans. I’m sure that he and Kane will want to challenge immediately. I'd like to see at least two more players go in there. Statement signings that show the world Tottenham are changing the stature of the club. Tottenham have good players in the club, but they need to get better ones now. Tottenham are going places.

 

I can tell you are a bit excited by it as well. It could be a really exciting time for Tottenham. They have to seize the opportunity now don’t they? 

Yeah, without a doubt. It could be a massive turning point in the club's history. Champions League football, fourth spot, it's an opportunity for us to move onto bigger and better things with it. With the current manager that's in charge, who likes to win things; who’s in football to win. All the ingredients are there.

 

How can Conte get this team firing and competing with Man City and Liverpool? 

Consistency. They need to be even more consistent if they want to get close to Liverpool and Manchester City. They need better players. They need to bring in two or three real top players. I know that's going to cost an awful lot of money, but they need other world class players to lead within the dressing room to take some of the burden off Kane. If Tottenham get three top players in there, they’re moving in the right direction and hopefully you go on to bigger and better things

 

The Perisic signing goes against the model of signing younger players that Levy reportedly likes, do you think that Daniel Levy should give Conte full control over transfers given his pedigree? 

Yeah. He’s proven that he's got what it takes as a manager. He's got them into the Champions League. He's got the players on his side. Now he needs reinforcements at the top level to take him to the next level. And I think that he should be backed.

 

Apparently the club has a strong interest in Richarlison. Do you think he is ready to step up and play for a big club like Tottenham or should Spurs be aiming a little higher? 

I don't think he's what is needed now. Tottenham have got good attacking players; Kane, Son, Kulevski, Bergwijn is still there, Moura is still there. We’ve got players in the Richarlison mould and I don’t think he would be a statement signing that would get teams worried. If they were to sign him what would the result be? In my day, when we signed Klinsmann, a proper World Class player, everyone in the dressing room was buzzing. We knew what we were going to get from him. You need players that are going to take you to the next level and I don’t think Richarlison is one of them. I don't think he’s the ideal man to make a statement for Tottenham. If you're going to make a statement, and West Ham fans won't like me for this, then go and get Declan Rice. He is an unbelievable player. And he's good for the next eight years. He's the man to take us to the next level. These big players don't come around very often, but signing him would make a statement because he is immense every time he plays. He would make a statement to say we're going places, and that's what you want.


On West Ham

In a season that promised so much, West Ham sort of slumped to a little bit of a limp finish at the end? Do you think that West Ham will regret not strengthening the team in January?

Yeah. I really thought they should have recruited in January. David Moyes has done a brilliant job, but it comes down to the ambition of the club and what direction they want to go in. I think they missed a massive opportunity. It was a chance to take the club to the next level and to get a foot in with the bigger clubs. Now, West Ham might have a problem because players like Declan Rice and Bowen will know that they haven't taken the next steps. If Rice goes, the club changes. There's no murmurs that he's going. So it sounds like he might be there for another season at least. It was a chance to go to the next level. And I think they missed the trick.

 

Yeah, I and I think as well realistically, with Newcastle coming up, United can’t be bad forever. Is an opportunity like this ever going to come around for West Ham again?

If Declan is going to stay, they could, but they're not going to attract the top top players because they will be playing Europa Conference League football next season. There's still a chance to go bigger and better. Hopefully they will realise they've missed a trick, but it's a long shot again, because there's other clubs that are going to be competing with them. Will they get overtaken? Or are they going to go to the next level? The transfer market will show us the club's ambitions. 

 

When you went from Tottenham to United, you went there to win things. And that's exactly what you did. As a player, you wouldn’t begrudge Rice and Bowen a move to a bigger club that can fulfil their ambitions would you? 

Every top player with ambition wants to play at the highest level. So if you get the chance and the opportunity is there, then you're going to do it. It's just as simple as that. You know, that's how they've got to be the top players they are, by moving up when the opportunities arrive. They've taken the opportunity to move up when they can. That's the position that West Ham are in at the moment. Are you spending to keep top players like Rice and Bowen or do you let them go to acquire more money to bring other average players in?

 

You must be thrilled to see Forest back in the Premier League. How excited are you about seeing Premier League football back at the City Ground.

My wife's from Nottingham. I've felt the vibes coming down from her family. They went to the playoff final at Wembley. Vicky McClure is here as well (at Soccer Aid) and she's been speaking very highly about the club and what they’ve achieved this season. She says that at the moment the whole city is buzzing. I'm delighted for them. I loved my year in Nottingham. Playing for Brian Clough and the team of players he had was great. I didn't know it was a stepping stone for me at the time, but it proved to be. The fans probably won't like me saying that, but it was a fantastic stepping stone for me at the time to go and play there and I loved every minute of it.

 

Do you think Steve Cooper is going to surprise a few people in the Premier League?

Yes. He had an unbelievable season. Forest were down the bottom of the Championship. They were a massive club at the bottom of the championship. It was like, ‘what the hell is going wrong at this club?’ He's gone in, changed it around. This is what I'm saying to you. Football clubs can be changed around if they're moved in the right direction, in the right way with the right manager. He's obviously got everyone on side there. The players understand his way of playing and it snowballed for them. That's what can happen when everyone is moving in the same direction. You never know where it's going to take you.

 

What advice would you give to any players that have been linked with a move or are thinking about moving to Forest?

Take the opportunity. The club is rolling in the right direction at the moment. So go there with confidence and go and enjoy your football and the people in the city. Go and enjoy the ride and perform to the best of your abilities. 

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