Man of the Moment 5: Teddy Sheringham

Teddy Sheringham became only the second outfield player to play Premiership football at the age of 40 when he came on as a substitute against Charlton Athletic on his birthday. Here the veteran striker reflects on his glittering 22-year professional career and reveals the desire that enables him to continue producing the goods at the highest level of English football...

First of all Teddy, how does it feel to be 40?
"I've been trying to keep it quiet, for obvious reasons, but everyone else keeps going on about it! To me, it's just another birthday, I'm 40 and that's it. I suppose the interest is because of the fact that not many players are still playing at my age, but it's not something I have really thought about, to be honest.
"I can't explain it - I don't feel 40, or whatever 40 is supposed to feel like! It's not a big deal to me and I won't be dealing with the game any differently - or expect to be treated any differently - just because I'm 40."

Have your younger team-mates given you a bit of stick about the milestone?
"I get a bit of ribbing, but no more than I give out. I must admit to feeling a bit old when the music in the dressing-room comes on, but you've got to move with the times and I don't mind some of the R 'n' B stuff that the younger lads play. The difference is that I also go back to Rod Stewart and that sort of music, which is never played in the dressing-room!"

So what is the secret behind your longevity?
"I've been very fortunate with injuries, which I think is a big part of it. I've never had any major knee or ankle problems, my joints are good, and while I feel okay then I will continue to play.
"A lot of players have had to finish early because or been hampered during their careers with injury, but that hasn't been the case for me, and I'm very grateful for that. I'm also probably lucky with my genes - my dad is a tall, slim man and I've followed in his footsteps in that sense."

Have you had to change the style of your game in recent years?
"I don't think so. I think my game evolved at the age of about 26, when I changed from being an out-and-out striker to playing in the hole behind a front man. That was after I had joined Tottenham from Nottingham Forest, and I've been playing that role ever since.

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What have been the biggest changes in football since you started playing?

"On the field, the main thing is that the game is so much faster. The backpass rule has meant that there isn't as much time-wasting as there used to be, the ball is lighter and the pitches are better.
"Off the pitch, it's got to be the money. I've said it has increased ten-fold, but it's probably more like a hundred-fold. The TV guys have come in and poured money into the game, and it's obviously made a big difference to the players financially."

Looking back over your career, what highlights would you pick out as the greatest?
In the early days, getting promoted with Millwall to the top flight for the first time in the Club's history was a fantastic achievement. Most of us were young lads who had progressed through the youth ranks, and it was the first taste of real success for us.
For England, my involvement at Euro 96 was something I will never forget - especially that 4-1 win over Holland. Playing for England, at Wembley, scoring two goals and picking up the man of the match award - it's every schoolboy's dream.
Then of course there was the Champions League victory and treble with Manchester United - 11 days that I wouldn't change for anything. It was truly amazing to be involved in and lovely to play such a memorable part in it."

Did you always believe you would be playing at the very top for so long? "Not at all - there have been times during my career when I thought I wasn't going to make it. I remember my second game for England was against Norway in a World Cup qualifier, we lost 2-0, I got taken off at half-time and I thought that was the end of my international career. I ended up playing 51 times for England, but I've never taken anything for granted and, even now, I'm still striving to prove myself every week."

How much does it mean to you to be finishing your career at the Club you supported as a boy?
"It means everything. I can remember coming here as a seven year-old and thinking: 'I'd like to play for West Ham one day.' And here I am now living that dream. It might have come a little bit later in my career than I would have thought, but I'm so pleased that I eventually got here.
"The last 18 months have been fantastic, I've enjoyed every minute of it and that is the key reason behind the fact that I'm still playing. The atmosphere around the Club is tremendous, it's a great place to be at, and I enjoy coming into work every day. At my age, job satisfaction is the most important thing, and I've got that here."

Have you made any plans for your future yet?
"Not beyond the end of next season. I'm quite happy to be signed up for another year, but I can't look any further than that. If I'm still enjoying my football and feel able enough to do a job, then maybe I will continue, but it's not something I can even think about yet.
"I wouldn't count anything out in the future, though. If it could provide me with job satisfaction, then I would contemplate it and make my decision from there. Coaching is something that I might consider, but I'm not definitely set on it or planning to head down that route. At the moment, I'm still enjoying playing too much, and long may that continue."