The next in the occasional series of Arsenal villains is more pantomime villain than Mephistopholes incarnate. He hasn't really ever committed any major attrocity against us other than simply daring to play for two of our sworn enemies. But the intriguing thing about this particular character is his willingness to indulge in the febrile banter with Arsenal supporters. Whisper it quietly, but I really quite admired him for it.
Edward Sheringham began his career at Bermondsey based Millwall, where he earned the modiker of legend (his image is prominently emblazoned onto the side if the West Stand next to Harry Cripps and Kasey Keller) and destroyed it just as quickly. Teddy has a neat little quirk of proclaiming to support every club he joins. According to his own legend, he has enjoyed various incarnations as a Spurs fan, a United fan, a Millwall fan and a West Ham supporter. The latter claim has tainted his name with a tubercular tinge in Bermondsey and he is now considered something of a pariah. Following impressive form at Millwall, he earned a move to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest, where he scored the first ever televised goal on Sky Sports. So far, so innocuous. But then came the first chapter of his leper status in N5.
He joined Tottenham Hotspur. He was really quite good (afterall, who ever really bothered hating a crap player?), it annoyed us. A winning goal in a North London derby in November 1995 followed by a pumping fist aimed at the Arsenal fans cemented his unpopularity. In 1997, Sheringham moved to Manchester United in pursuit of major honours just as United and Arsenal's rivalry was simmering. When he took the pitch for United at Highbury he was, naturally, roundly booed. But Sheringham scored twice in the match, which Arsenal eventually won 3-2, each time scampering to the North Bank with his lips pressed tightly against the United crest. Apparently, some Arsenal fans complained to police. Seriously, who are these people? Why dish it out if you can't take it? Arsenal would of course saunter to the Double, leaving United empty handed in the process. That August, as Arsenal faced United in the Charity Shield, a new chant acclaimed Teddy's presence, 'ooooh Teddy, Teddy. You went to Man United and you won fuck all!' Arsenal trounced United 3-0 and as Sheringham the sub warmed up next to the Arsenal fans, he was mercilessly taunted about his inability to earn a place in the starting eleven, not to mention the paucity of his medal collection. He came on to ironic cheers and his misery was sealed when he missed an absolute sitter in front of the Arsenal end. Only Fabien Barthez three years later could relate to such indignity.
However, Sheringham got some payback. He won the treble the following season, scoring a last gasp equaliser in the Champions League Final. When he returned to Wembley for the Charity Shield that August, he did so in mocking triumph. As he circled the perimeter of the pitch to warm up in front of the Arsenal fans again, a satisfied smirk permeated his features as he held three fingers erect in front of us. As the chants of, 'you're just a fucking reserve!' and the less witty, 'oh Teddy, Teddy, you went to Man United and you're still a c**t!' Sheringham's riposte was to mime holding three trophies aloft. Fair play I say, who wouldn't have done the same in that scenario? The Gunners won the game 2-1, famously, Teddy swapped shirts with an Arsenal player and as he climbed the steps to receive his medal, he held the shirt away from his skin with his nose upturned in mock disgust.
After three years at United, Teddy rejoined Spurs. Just to annoy us. He would later confirm in an interview in 2001, 'let's be honest, I don't like Arsenal.' The feeling was mutual. Sheringham had already been ostrasised by Andrew Cole in his time at United and Sheringham would ignite a feud with a very North London flavour. Rumours abound that Sol Campbell had a fling with Sheringham's ex wife immediately following their divorce, much to his chargrin. The feud spilled onto the pitch in April 2002 during a tense North London derby. (Made famous by Lauren's late pee roller penalty). Sheringham and Campbell jostled for an aerial challenge and fell to the floor, as Sol clambered to his feet, Sheringham aimed a kick at Campbell's face. Sol, usually the epitome of restraint, grabbed the prone Sheringham by his collar and screamed in his face. I have literally never seen a person look as terrified as Sheringham did in that couple of seconds. Campbell stopped just short of headbutting him. One season later, with Arsenal beating Tottenham 3-0, Vieira was substituted as a precaution and the armband was handed to Sol. He rubbed it warmly as Sheringham stood yards away from him.
Sheringham drifted to Portsmouth, scoring in front of the North Bank in a 1-1 draw. But possibly his most futile display came at Fratton Park. With Arsenal leading 5-0, Sheringham smashed a consolation home in front of the gathered Gooners in the Milton End. He approached us with a clenched fist. Laughter greeted him, so consumed by venom, Teddy obviously hadn't taken stock of the score. He would cross Arsenal indirectly on one final occasion. Playing for West Ham against Spurs in the infamous Lasagnegate match, West Ham won a penalty with the scores at 1-1. Sheringham, arch Arsenal hater and with a glowing affection for Spurs, with whom we were jockeying for fourth place, had the opportunity to guarantee Champions League football for Arsenal. His suspiciously weak penalty was saved by Robinson, possibly the worst penalty stopper in history. Teddy moved to Colchester United and retired in May, aged 42. In reality, Sheringham and Arsenal's rivalry was a genuine piece of amusing footballing banter in an age of media coached characters that refuse to engage with fans. It was a decent sporting rivalry, driven by mutual distrust but ultimately engendered by an implicit respect.LD.