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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Sheri toasts benefit duo
Spurs striker Teddy Sheringham and former Millwall player manager Keith Stevens
Sheringham and Stevens go head-to-head
England striker Teddy Sheringham believes fans should decide whether a footballer deserves to be given a testimonial windfall.

Sheringham spoke out in a week which sees two of his former team-mates rewarded with benefit matches.

But Manchester United's Ryan Giggs and former Millwall player manager Keith Stevens are at the opposite end of football's latest debate.

Giggs came under fire for picking up more than £1m for Wednesday's testimonial match between his United side and Martin O'Neill's Celtic.

Keith has stayed very loyal to Millwall
Teddy Sheringham
With a further £1m to come from benefit year events and an estimated annual salary of £2.5m, there were many who claimed the last thing he needed was a benefit bonanza.

For Stevens, however, the case is very different.

More than 20 years at one club, first as a player and then as manager, merits more than a simple pat on the back.

Sports minister Richard Caborn is calling for a limit on tax-free payments from testimonials. Any profits above the accepted ceiling would be subject to 40% tax.

Loyal footballers

But Sheringham, due to line up for Glenn Hoddle's new-look Spurs against Stevens' Millwall at the New Den on Saturday, believes loyalty should be rewarded.

"There has been a lot of talk about whether footballers deserve testimonials but there are players that stay loyal," Sheringham said.

"If you have been a long servant to one club then it's up to people whether they want to pay their respects.

Ryan Giggs and Celtic's Tommy Boyd
Giggs' testimonial was lined with silver

"There have been times when even players like Ryan Giggs could have moved on for absolutely fortunes.

"But he hasn't, he stayed in Manchester because he likes playing for Manchester United. He's very loyal to the club.

"There are pros and cons but it's up to the fans if they want to show their respect and they did. They rewarded him with a full house."

With few players remaining loyal to one club in today's game of signing-on enticements, Stevens' 20-years of service will rarely be matched.

More than 9,000 tickets have already been sold for Saturday's game and the regard in which he is held is underlined by Millwall's offer of a benefit game, despite Stevens' controversial sacking last season.

"There were times when Keith could have moved on in his career but he didn't. He stayed very loyal to Millwall," said Sheringham.

"It will be up to people whether they feel they want to show their appreciation by getting down there.

"The benefits will go to Rhino, so it's a great cause.

I am Millwall through and through and I want them to do well
Keith Stevens
"But I wouldn't say the issue is all about money.

"I can understand the point of view that people who are earning a lot of money shouldn't have testimonials as well, but there are different ways of looking at a benefit game. It's a respect thing.

"Supporters appreciate what Keith has done over the years and what Ryan has done over the years.

"They are at different ends of the market as such but it's nice that they are rewarded."

"I had some good times at Millwall, playing in the same team as Keith, and he deserves a good turn-out after all he has done for the club.

"It has been his life since he was a boy."

Stevens, surprisingly sacked by Millwall when his young team were beginning to click early last season, said: "I don't bear any grudges.

"I am Millwall through and through and of course I want them to do well.

  "Many of the lads have grown up with me and I want them to succeed.

  "I popped into the training ground a couple of times to catch up with the lads and Mark McGhee made me very welcome."

Links to more Millwall stories are at the foot of the page.


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