Tim Sherwood may be guilty of a lot of things during his brief spell at Tottenham, but being boring isn’t one of them. The Spurs manager has offered up good theatre on the sidelines, to which the Sky Sports cameras have dutifully obliged.
Watching Sherwood patrol the sidelines eyes bulging, threatening at any minute to throw off some item of clothing in a fit of hulk-like rage has provided a captivating aside to the action on the field. Enjoy it while it lasts though, as the Tottenham manager may just be just be giving us a glimpse of things to come.
For Spurs’s Europa League last-16 tie with Benfica, Tim Sherwood watched on from the stands. The Spurs manager sat on the managerial equivalent of the naughty step, not out of obligation, but out of choice. While his decision was partly influenced by bad behaviour, it raised the question why more managers don’t choose the virtues of the stands over the sidelines?
‘You see a different game up there,’ was Sherwood’s verdict on the experiment. And this isn’t surprising. Anyone who’s sat low in the stands of a football match will know it offers a very limited view of the game. It’s good a place to feel the atmosphere, to appreciate the physicality of tackles and areal duels, and get caught up in the excitement of the game.
But excitement is not a sense that the football manager should be looking to indulge. If anything, the emotional side of the game should be treated with trepidation. A thing to be avoided as best you can.
Management is about making decisions. And good decisions are rarely made when emotion is playing a large part in the process.
For those that struggle to keep their cool, a stay in the stands would seem like the perfect tonic. This move may also improve the credibility of their decisions. It’s certainly difficult to imagine players completely believing in the pronouncements of a manger who is so clearly not in control of their emotions.
Sandro certainly seemed to appreciate the change. When asked after the draw with Benfica about the difference it made for those on the pitch, Sandro said: ‘Yes, it was [quieter]. In another way it is good also: when Tim went he comes into the dressing room he could say something as he could see it from the top. I’m sure it helps.’
Along with the potentially negative emotional side-effects is the problem of the quality of the view itself. To put simply: it’s not very good.
When you’re so close to the action, it’s hard to get a feel for the wider context of the game. Patterns of play are harder to recognise and you don’t get as good a sense of where the space is on the pitch.
Such a close-up view is naturally distorted. It’s only logical that incidents that happen directly in front off you would feel more significant than those that occur on the other side of the pitch.The minor details of the close by can distract when you should be concentrating on the whole.
Managers are often criticised for ‘selective viewing’ of major incidents in the game, but it’s surprising they such much at all from such an opaque view.
The price to pay for a move to the stands would be a lack of direct contact with the players. While messages could still be easily passed on, some managers may feel this distance would be too big a sacrifice.
However, one wonders how much of a managers gesticulations on the sidelines are successfully interpreted and employed by those on the pitch. Certainly not 100%. And probably a lot less than they think.
Most of it feels like little more than hot air – more for the manager’s benefit than it is for the team, or the players.
Chained to the technical area, the football manager cuts a helpless figure on the sidelines. Responsible for what’s happening in front of him, but unable to directly influence the course of events, the manager is forced to watch proceedings as if paralyzed.
But he’s not paralyzed. Not completely. He’s free to windmill his arms inside the rectangle outlined by white paint and shout out instructions to the deaf. He can even learn to do that whistle thing with his fingers, if he wants. Anything that makes him feel better. Anything that reduces the powerlessness.
It’s hard to take Tim Sherwood as seriously once you’ve seen his out of control persona on the touchline. This is unfortunate, as it means the Tottenham manager doesn’t get the credit that he deserves.
However, in accepting his faults, Sherwood may just have struck on something good. The stands may be the future place of the football manager; the sidelines reserved for the compromised and the deranged.