It hardly required the yellow ‘Breaking News’ banner that perennially scrolls the bottom of the Sky Sports News display to tell you that Tottenham Hotspur had sacked manager Tim Sherwood. His day of judgment was beckoning from the moment he was appointed, and only in the most unlikely of circumstances would it have occurred any differently.
Whilst nobody truly believed we’d get to see more than half a season of Sherwood at Spurs, it was a joy to behold while it endured.
I’m not speaking from a results-based perspective. Sherwood’s approach to the job was a real breath of fresh air. His candid manner may not have won fans in the dressing room, the club hierarchy, the White Hart Lane stands or even in some areas of the media. But his ramblings, whilst writing good copy for the daily papers, at times harboured the incoherence of your everyday football supporter. And I always felt as though from the point of view of a football fan, that he wasn’t as disconnected with those who love the game as many modern day football managers are.
I struggle to think of any other managers who would have done what Sherwood did on the last day of the Premier League season. Even when times are good, and the fans are singing praises of a manager, you rarely see much acknowledgement. A small clap here, a wave there. But no actual communication. Sherwood embraced the criticism of a regular stadium-goer, and gave him his five minutes of fame with good grace.
In his post-match interview he said that the fan was there every other week trying to direct his tactics and his substitutions. The fact that Sherwood was aware of this was pleasing enough, but for him to act upon it in a light-hearted and fun manner was a beautiful moment to conclude the season. Such is the pressure of the life of a Premier League manager, the 19 others in his position would have stood with a cold gaze across the pitch, allowing the fan to continue bellowing into the ether. Granted, by and large, the pressure was off that day. There was little to play for and it was largely a procession. But that doesn’t make it any less of a captivating moment.
Whatever he could be branded as – confrontational, brash, loud, unpredictable, cocky, egotistical – he was never afraid to speak his mind. And this wasn’t a speaking of his mind in the way that Jose Mourinho will try to belittle or derogate others. His honesty felt as though it came from deep within him. A man who – when his attire allowed for it – wore his heart on his sleeve with every decision he made and everything he stood by. There was nothing false about him. Everything you saw was everything you got.
The fact that he didn’t toe the line that Daniel Levy clearly expects from his managers was enough to win him over for me, whilst probably going in the opposite direction for the Spurs chairman. He openly admitted to the flaws in the Tottenham squad. After yet another humbling at the hands of a so-called ‘rival’ club, Chelsea, he laughed off the idea of gaining a top four spot, claiming that everyone at the club needed to ‘wake up’ from the dream of coming fourth.
Whilst it may not have been to the liking of many around the club, the fact he addressed the reality of the situation was a brave thing to do. Far too many managers would reel off the old ‘mathematical possibility’ platitude, or any of the other pre-prepared clichés from interviews of the past. Instead, he said what, in all honesty, should have – and probably already was – recognised by many around about the club. All but the big wigs that is.
Ten points may not be the ‘million miles’ that Sherwood confessed Tottenham were from Champions League football. But it is a significant distance to catch up. The club may not be willing to wake up to the fact that many of the players they signed in the summer aren’t up to the job, but Sherwood was aware.
Right now it stands to reason that Tottenham won’t finish in the top four for yet another year. And the chances are that Sherwood’s successor may just face the same destiny of nine previous. While the hierarchy at the club continue to believe that the money-throwing, manager-firing approach will eventually achieve the desired results, they’ll continue replicating the same old errors.
The clubs ambitions right now appear to be delusions of grandeur. Despite his Tottenham background, Sherwood didn’t buy into this. Everything he said was steeped in realism.
Whilst he may not have been the right man to guide the club towards their lofty aspirations, it would be worth Levy and co. learning a few lessons from him along the way. Sherwood got the problems of the football club out in the open, and they would be wise to take note. He may not have been to the liking of everybody, but he sure won me over.
Tim Sherwood: I hope to see you back in the Premier League very soon.