Football: Sheringham set to be England spearhead

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The Independent Online
THE best season of Teddy Sheringham's flourishing career has proved something of a double-edged sword for his employers, but the Tottenham striker has cut a swathe through his rivals and confidently expects to make his debut for England in the first of their back-to-back World Cup ties, in Poland on Saturday.

Sheringham's success with Spurs since his transfer from Nottingham Forest last summer was one of the things which brought Terry Venables into conflict with Alan Sugar - Money Man blocking Football Man's move to reward him with a new, improved contract.

Venables would argue that Sheringham, having rattled in 29 goals to bring himself to the threshold of the England team, deserved some sort of bonus.

Just how close he is to his first cap became apparent yesterday, when Les Ferdinand's back injury again prevented him from training, and the England manager, Graham Taylor, indicated that the Tottenham man, rather than Arsenal's Ian Wright, was the logical replacement.

Ferdinand seems increasingly unlikely to recover from his disc problem in time to resume his attacking partnership with David Platt, and Sheringham is seen as the most promising alternative as an orthodox centre-forward and leader of the line.

Apart from goals, he contributes more than Wright elsewhere, receiving and shielding the ball adroitly and bringing others into play. The Arsenal man has a marked advantage in terms of pace, but is something of a maverick, preferring to chase the long ball over the top.

Wright's damaged ankle and toe have improved sufficiently for him to train normally but, unlike Sheringham, he seems ill-suited to England's passing game, and will probably have to be content with a place among the substitutes.

Sheringham said he was hopeful of playing, whether or not Ferdinand and Wright were fit. 'I think he expected to get in last time', Taylor grinned. 'He sems to have that air of confidence, and he isn't half putting the ball in the net in training.'

Taylor had noticed a marked difference about the 27-year-old Londoner on his second appearance in the squad. 'When they first come in, it's everything they've always dreamed of, and before they know it two or three days have gone. The second time they feel part of it. The difference in Teddy is very noticeable. He's much more relaxed, and looks part of the set-up.'

Sheringham had just enjoyed the most profitable season of his career, for which, he said, he had Venables to thank, but he had always had international ambitions, even in his days with Millwall, in the old Second Division.

'Playing for England was always on my mind, but I knew I had to get into the First Division to do it. When I got the chance, with Forest, I did OK, but I didn't exactly set the world alight.'

Ignition had come at the turn of the year, when two goals against Norwich City in the FA Cup set him off on a run which produced 12 in eight games.

Before Ferdinand's injury, Taylor was planning only one change, introducing Tony Dorigo at left-back to the exclusion of Martin Keown. Otherwise, he said, 'the performance in the 2-2 draw with Holland justifies me saying: Go out and carry on.'