Words: Jack Mallinson
Images: Offside Sports Photography
The pair might have had great chemistry on the pitch, winning the Treble together with Man United in 1999 and averaging a goal between them every 84.8 minutes playing together, but there was plenty of juicy beef off the grass.
For almost over two decades, they’ve not spoken a word to one another, which is quite impressive when you think about how much time the lads would have spent together training and travelling.
Cole attributes the feud to his England debut against Uruguay in 1995, where he replaced Sheringham, who was then playing for Spurs.
“Our problems started when I made my England debut,” he said in Andy Mitten’s book on Manchester United in the 90s, Glory, Glory.
“I replaced Teddy. I was making my debut. Maybe I was naive, but I think he should have wished me all the best. I was nervous, as anyone would be.
“Instead, he walked straight past me and blanked me. It’s not like I told Terry Venables to take Teddy off. So I was devastated when Teddy Sheringham signed for United because I couldn’t stand him.
“We played a friendly in Milan in 1997, just after he’d signed. He said something on the pitch. I didn’t like it. ‘I’m only trying to help you,’ he said. ‘I don’t need your help,’ I replied.”
And things haven’t cooled down over time, either. In an article for the Independent written by Cole in 2010, he says he’d rather be mates with Razor Ruddock, who broke Cole’s leg in a 1996 reserves game between Manchester United and Liverpool.
“I would rather sit down and have a cuppa with Neil Ruddock, who broke my leg in two places in 1996, than with Teddy Sheringham, who I've pretty much detested for the past 15 years.”
“You know what my immediate thoughts were? 'Jesus Christ! How many people just saw Teddy Sheringham do that to me?' I was embarrassed. I was confused. And there you have it. From that moment on, I knew Sheringham was not for me.”
The issue was open within the club, with Fergie understanding the situation. After all, it’s not like the Scot has never had a falling out with anyone himself.
“He was the only manager who could get the best out of me. He understood me as a person and even with the Teddy Sheringham thing he was fantastic. He mentioned it to me once and then let it go,” he told the Guardian in 2018.
Cole was clearly upset by the incident because he’s spoken about it a fair amount.
“He was going to be substituted for me to come on to replace him, and he snubbed me on the line. I just thought to myself, ‘I’m making my debut here and Wembley is a packed house’. And I felt so small,” reported the Evening Standard in 2015.
“I don’t think his apology would come, because I honestly do believe that he believes he was not in the wrong.”
But he’s also had time to lament. Perhaps the whole thing was blown out of proportion, and what truly matters are the goals and the trophies and the glory. Maybe.
“I achieved a lot with him in the Manchester United team so I’m not going to go on the pitch and not shake his hand, but I’m not sure we will [have a laugh about it],” Cole said to the Times in 2005.
“I will look back on my career and think that some of the things I fell out about were trivial—but at that moment in time, then, it wasn’t trivial to me.
“It was a talking point then, but I’m 34 now and what I did then is not what I’d do now. I made that decision then, wrongly or rightly, but now, at 34, would I make it again? Probably not."
“I wouldn’t say I didn’t like Sheringham so much that I didn’t want to achieve anything with him," said Cole, "as a team you always want to do that. Football’s a team game, not everybody gets on, but what we had to do we did right, regardless of whether we spoke, on or off the pitch.”
As for Teddy, well, he doesn’t seem to care quite as much. He’s not spoken on the issue, but given what he said about poor old Glenn Hoddle in the 2011 book, Glory, Goals and Greed, that’s probably for the best.
If the beef hasn’t been squashed by now, maybe it’ll never be; so here’s to twenty increasingly more petty years.
For more great football writing about stuff you actually care about, you can buy our magazine or subscribe for a year here.