Tim Sherwood came very close to proving The Beatles right last season. Sherwood took Aston Villa to a comfortable place in the league and guided them to an FA Cup final after replacing Paul Lambert post-transfer window.
Sherwood managed spectacularly different results than those managed by his predecessor, yet used exactly the same tools. For the players, love was all they needed.
Sherwood has an aura, a confidence. He’s an amiable kind of cheeky-chappy, a loveable rogue. Tim’s a lover, not a fighter.
So his direct and to-the-point style of play works wonders in a team devoid of confidence – when you get players like Christian Benteke playing with confidence, you’ve got a chance. But what happens if you can’t keep it going?
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That’s probably a question that Villa fans don’t really want to ask at the moment, after all, why wouldn’t Villa be able to keep it going. It’s only been half a season of decent football, and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Good play, a manager who wants to attack and play exciting football and a raft of new signings.
Yes, all these are great things. But there’s going to be a slump, that’s inevitable for every team. The question is, when it does happen, can they deal with it?
And the jury’s out. Sherwood hasn’t really been in a position where a slump could potentially see his side sucked into the relegation places. He presided over the club when he brought them an upward trajectory and confidence was always high.
Then selling Benteke is a little bit of a blow, but surely inevitable. Surely Villa had contingency plans in place. And presumably they did, so the arrival of Rudy Gestede, Jordan Amavi, Jordan Veretout and Jordan Ayew are shrewd. All are good players, and all can do a job for Villa.
Gestede terrorised Liverpool in the FA Cup and looks like he’ll be a real handful in the big league. Jordan Veretout is a silky, technical midfielder who will be comfortable at a high level. Jordan Amavi is dynamic and exciting and had a simply sensational season for Nice last time around – though I wonder about his discipline after he picked up 11 yellow cards last season.
Having said all that, though, for all his ability, Jordan Ayew is a highly frustrating player whose footballing brain leaves a lot to be desired.
But all of that is meaningless if they don’t perform next season for Villa. They’ll be coming into a new league and with a manager who will give them the confidence to adapt to the league – that’s what Sherwood does – but you feel like there’s a limit to what the manager’s love can do for a player. I fear that might be putting too much stock in the restorative powers of an arm around the shoulder.
When the going gets tough for Villa, when they hit that unavoidable slump, they need players with grit and determination to see them through it. If the new boys have that, then Sherwood’s man-management might see them through. If the new recruits don’t have that important quality then Villa are relying on what got them out of trouble last season.
If the love runs out, it could be more of a hard day’s night for the Villains.