These are tough times for the Villa Park faithful. Watching their team play like complete strangers at times, seemingly bereft of ideas, confidence and spirit, must be difficult for the crowds at the famous old bastion of English football to take.
Aside from the development of Jack Grealish and the continued perseverance of loyal club servant Gabriel Agbonlahor, there has been precious little for the claret side of Birmingham to cheer in recent years. However, they do at least have a manager brim full of fight, self-belief and determination: Tim Sherwood. The former Spurs boss swept into the midlands like a tornado in spring, quickly easing any relegation fears and taking Villa to an FA Cup Final. But now he has to get tough with his team.
Villa have a squad that cannot afford to not make the most of their ability. While Micah Richards represents a steady presence in central defence, alongside Joleon Lescott, and Grealish is an exceptional talent in midfield, there are far too few players in the side who have proven Premier League experience and quality who are not performing. Many of the new arrivals in the summer came from overseas, and they will naturally take time to settle in this demanding league. However, that is the price one must pay after coming into a club where the owner is disinterested, disillusioned and extremely disinclined to hand out a large cheque for Sherwood to spend big on players with proven class and know-how in this league. That is why I believe Sherwood has to get tough and creative with this squad, to try and eek every ounce of ability out of them.
At Tottenham, one of Sherwood’s greatest triumphs was to get the best out of the enigma wrapped inside a riddle wrapped inside a lanky striker from Togo that was Emmanuel Adebayor. The frontman, who had grown increasingly disillusioned and unhappy time after time at pretty much all his previous clubs and with pretty much all his previous managers seemed to respond well to the belief that Sherwood so clearly bestowed in him.
I believe the Villa manager now has to turn to a rather different sort of treatment with the beleaguered squad he has to work with – the shock treatment. While this may appear harsh to some, Sherwood clearly has to do something fairly major, or else it is hard to see just how Villa can climb off the bottom of this, admittedly early, Premier League table. The question must be: how much worse could they be doing than currently? Maybe the time is right for Sherwood to shake things up a little; throw in a few of the kids, or drop a few established players in a clear message that anything except the highest standards and continued good performances will not be tolerated under his regime.
A lot gets made now of the fact that, partly due to the influx of foreign players in the Premier League, managers must tread carefully when it comes to public dressing-downs and storms of teacups – that might be true, but sometimes a bit of passion, anger and fire in the eyes is exactly what’s needed. I believe this to be one of those cases. One thing’s for sure, Sherwood must do something soon – or Villa will continue to sink.