'I've loathed Sheringham for 15 years' reveals Cole
Published 04/03/2010 | 05:00
In light of recent difficulties between former team-mates Wayne Bridge and John Terry, Cole has lifted the lid on one of the most high-profile strained relationships between team-mates in recent years.
"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.
"It was early 1995, I had recently signed for Manchester United, and it was my England debut, against Uruguay. I was a sub. I came on for Sheringham (then at Spurs), after about 70 minutes.
"You'll need to understand what was in my head at that moment to get even close to comprehending my reaction to what happened next.
"I was so nervous it was frightening. This was the culmination of a lifetime of ambition. You hear the cliche 'It means everything to play for my country'. But trust me, it did.
"Not just for me, but for my family, my parents especially, who had endured all kinds of hardships to give us the chances we had. Becoming a pro had been incredible. Now the magnitude of playing for England was indescribable. The moment has arrived.
"I walk on to the pitch, 60,000 or so watching. Sheringham is coming off. I expect a brief handshake, a 'Good luck, Coley', something. I am ready to shake. He snubs me. He actively snubs me, for no reason I was ever aware of then or since. He walks off. I don't even know the bloke so he can't have any issue with me. We're fellow England players, it is my debut and he snubs me.
"You know what my immediate thoughts were? '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."
In 1997, after Eric Cantona left United, Sheringham arrived at Old Trafford. However, Cole has insisted that despite their impressive working relationship on the field, which included winning the treble in 1999, there was no cordiality off it.
"We played together for years. We scored a lot of goals. I never spoke a single word to him.
"People wonder how on earth we could function like that. Gary Pallister once said to me: 'I know you don't speak to Teddy and he doesn't speak to you, but at least you play well together'.
"We did, and I wouldn't ever cast aspersions on Sheringham's talent as a top-rate footballer for his clubs and country. I've just loathed him personally for 15 years."
In contrast to Sheringham, Cole added that he never had a problem with Ruddock despite suffering a broken leg as a result of a tackle by the then Liverpool central defender.
"I was angry, more than angry, when Ruddock chopped me down in a reserves match and I was diagnosed afterwards with two ankle fractures that kept me out for months.
"We disagreed on how it happened. He claimed it was an honest challenge and that I fell badly, while I said it was late and reckless.
"But even in my fury back then, which was also fuelled by frustration at being out of action, I never thought for a moment that Ruddock had maliciously taken me down with the intention of breaking my bones.
"No professional would do that to another unless there was something awry in their head.
"I've never known Ruddock well, or at all really, before or since that tackle, but I accept what happened was ultimately part and parcel of football, a contact sport, and one that does produce serious casualties. Thankfully, they are rare."