x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 November 2017

Atletico manager Teddy Sheringham determined to make full use of 'second chance' as he gets ready for ISL

Englishman knows well the competitive world of management and is excited to give it another shot in India years after being sacked by Stevenage

Teddy Sheringham's new employers are India's league champions, with 54,000 seeing them win the title last season. Christopher Pike / The National
Teddy Sheringham's new employers are India's league champions, with 54,000 seeing them win the title last season. Christopher Pike / The National

You may remember …

Robbie Keane (Atletico de Kolkata) The Irish striker is, along with his former Spurs teammate Dimitar Berbatov, the headline figure in this season’s ISL, having joined defending champions ATK. His grand entrance after arrival from Major League Soccer in the US will be delayed by three games, though, due to a knee injury.

Dimitar Berbatov (Kerala Blasters) Word has it that Rene Meulensteen, the Kerala manager, plans to deploy his Bulgarian star in central midfield. The idea of Berbatov as an all-action, box-to-box midfielder, might jar with Spurs and Manchester United supporters, who more likely recall an always-languid, often-lazy striker.

Wes Brown (Kerala Blasters) Revived his playing career last season to help out at Blackburn Rovers, where he was also a coach. Since then, the 23-cap England centre back, who is now 38, has been reunited with the former Manchester United assistant coach Meulensteen, after signing for Kerala.

Andre Bikey (Jamshedpur) The Cameroonian defender is onto the 17th club of a career has taken him to Spain, Portugal, Russia, the UK, Greece, and now India. He is still only 32, so there is plenty of time to add to that tally, too. Scored goals against Liverpool and Chelsea during his time with Reading in England.

Emiliano Alfaro (Pune City) The Uruguayan striker has played for Liverpool – the Montevideo one, rather than the better-known side in England – and Lazio in Italy. He was prolific for a season at Al Wasl in the Arabian Gulf League in 2012/13. He returned for one season with Fujairah, whom he left to join Pune.

It is the best part of two years since Teddy Sheringham was dismissed from his first job in football management.

His entry level had been the fourth tier of the English game, and it did not go well. Let go a little more than 10 months after taking over at Stevenage, he feared he was destined to become just another statistic.

More than half of English football managers, after all, are never recruited again after their first job in the game.

So insecure was he after his dismissal, he went to the club’s next home game in disguise, trying to blend in with the crowd to see what the supporters really felt about him.

For someone who had enjoyed such highs during a successful 25-year playing career, which brought him everything from European Cups to 51 England caps, it was a chastening experience.

He might not have expected what has come next. Despite the hiatus, he has been hired again.

His new employers are league champions in their country’s top division, with 54,000 seeing them win the title last season. Their home ground holds 85,000, and just a few weeks ago played host to a World Cup final.

And, still, there were reservations. This is, after all, a long way from home. India hardly qualifies as football’s mainstream just yet.

“People’s first thoughts back at home are, ‘Are you really going to India?’,” said Sheringham, the new manager of Atletico de Kolkata (ATK).

“A lot of people look at us and turn their noses up at it saying: ‘India? Are you mad?’ But we are excited about the experience and can’t wait to get going.”

ATK begin the defence of their Indian Super League (ISL) title on Friday when they take on Kerala Blasters, the team they beat on penalties to win last season’s final.

It might not quite have the celebrity or following of the English Premier League, or cricket’s Indian version, but there is some star dust floating around.

Sheringham will have another former Tottenham Hotspur striker, Robbie Keane, to call on at ATK, once the Irishman has recovered from injury.

Dimitar Berbatov, who, like Sheringham, counts Manchester United and Spurs among his former paymasters, will be in opposition when they face Kerala.

Kerala Blasters FC supporters cheering their side on against Atletico de Kolkata in Kochi on December 18, 2016. Sajjad Hussain / AFP
Kerala Blasters FC supporters cheering their side on against Atletico de Kolkata in Kochi on December 18, 2016. Sajjad Hussain / AFP

The ISL provides interest beyond the sidelines, too. Sourav Ganguly, Indian cricket royalty, is a part owner of ATK.

“You have to take positives out of the fact you are coming all this way to manage,” said Sheringham, who brought his new team to Dubai for a preparatory camp via a link up with the It's Just Football junior academy.

“Understanding different cultures and different people’s ways of life is a big thing. It is not just about football.

“I know what English football is all about. Now, getting to know Indian people, and people from different areas of India who have different ideas about what life is all about, it can be a fantastic experience.”

Aged 51, Sheringham could not be termed a young manager, but he remains an inexperienced one. He is grateful to have a second chance.

“I wanted to go further when I took my first job, but that came quickly to a halt,” he said.

“It has been very tough trying to get a second job. I knew that when I first took the job, something like 70 per cent of first-time managers never get a job after that. I understood that, and laughed at it.”

No matter someone’s playing pedigree, nor the amount of exams they sit, he says there is little that can prepare someone for management.

“The first job you get after being a footballer is a shock to the system,” he said.

“I was a coach for one year at West Ham [United]. I have done my badges, Uefa B and Uefa A, but I don’t think there is anything that holds you in good stead for management, I really don’t.

“Coming away from it, and going back into your second job, you think, ‘OK, I have experienced that, I know what is going to happen, let’s channel my priorities where I need to.’

“I hope I’m not speaking too soon, but I feel like I’m on to a bigger and better thing already.”

Teddy Sheringham's new employers are India's league champions, with 54,000 seeing them win the title last season. Sajjad Hussain / AFP
Teddy Sheringham's new employers are India's league champions, with 54,000 seeing them win the title last season. Sajjad Hussain / AFP

Having played under the likes of Brian Clough, Alex Ferguson, Terry Venables and Harry Redknapp, Sheringham has a broad spectrum of potential role models in coaching.

He says he does not favour any of his celebrated former managers' styles in particular. If anyone, he would like to emulate the way Mauricio Pochettino, the Spurs manager, goes about his business.

The achievements of the aforementioned remain some way off, and Sheringham would just be content with respect for now.

“You try to remember what the bad points are that you didn’t like about managers, and think, ‘Well, I’m never ever going to do that’,” he said.

“I obviously did do a couple of those things at my first job, because it didn’t work out and I didn’t get the results. I need to get things right, do things right, and learn.”

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