There’s so much to admire about the emotional, candid and entertaining Tim Sherwood, who embarks now on the tremendously difficult task of saving Aston Villa from relegation.
Sherwood is not a man of convention. He doesn’t adhere to the usual tactical practices that his managerial contemporaries place faith in. Tales of him playing as many attacking players as possible in the same formation are frequent. Damning interviews slating the quality of his own players have surfaced in the past, something you’d rarely see from one of England’s top managers, who never openly criticise their players individually. He’s also shown the audacity of few before him in his willingness to experiment and nurture youth – a commendable trait for a manager in the foetal stages of his career.
From a neutral’s perspective, it’s crisply refreshing to see a ‘hotshot’ of sorts waltz into the mainstream and throw the managerial rulebook out the window. Tottenham were wonderfully entertaining to watch in parts last season with their gung-ho mentality beset on them by Sherwood’s dogmatic ideology. And each game was usually followed by interviews often littered with controversial jabs at a range of different people, giving the media oceans of bait to feed upon and the twitter-user plenty to rabble about.
For all of that though, if you invert that neutral perspective and look at Sherwood’s value through an Aston Villa lens, perhaps there’s less to be chirpy about. Sherwood was always going to be a risk given his only aforementioned six month tenure in all of football management, but was he necessarily a risk worth taking?
You can see, superficially, why Randy Lerner will have moved swiftly to secure Sherwood’s services. For a club in dire financial straits Sherwood’s lack of experience probably made him a fairly cheap option, and the fact that he was previously unemployed meant Villa avoided paying compensation to another club.
That, combined with his attacking ideals, make him an ideal candidate to tackle their appalling attacking impotency, which has outwardly made them a remarkably boring team to watch this season. And for the way in which he brought on Nabil Bentaleb and Harry Kane with an assured confidence this time last year, Lerner will have smiled upon the prospects of Villa’s (cheaper) youth players getting the attention they need.
For all of that though, there was a reason Sherwood was sacked by Daniel Levy last year, despite him (almost infamously given the satire surrounding it on social media) boasting the best win percentage (50%) of any manager in Tottenham’s history.
But there’s a reason why you never heard Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger or Alex Ferguson publicly assassinate one of their players in the media. There are also a plethora of further reasons why selecting as many attacking players in your starting eleven is no guaranteed formula for success. Sherwood’s methods may be entertaining to the neutral, but they are also risky.
Truth be told, the best managers for saving you from relegation are your Tony Pulis’ and Sam Allardyce’s. They, individually, couldn’t be more different from Sherwood in a footballing sense. Their playing styles are based around defensive, resilient, and physical football, designed in the most pragmatic sense to yield results. Results are ultimately key, and unfortunately for all of Sherwood’s gloss and shine, the underlying roots that will become prevalent in the Midlands will not necessarily gift the results they desire. West Brom will be fine with Pulis at the helm. West Ham owe Sam Allardyce an awful amount as he’s plotted their transition to the Premier League.
Sherwood offers no such assurances, and one can’t help but think Lerner was lured into the Sherwood package by offering something that his team were lacking, at the expense of a viable, effective strategy. Villa are in all sorts of trouble for now, and Tim Sherwood probably wasn’t worth the risk of rescuing them from their seemingly interminable descent into the abyss of English football.