Sherwood exposed as van Gaal waits in wings

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-TOTTENHAMFor Daniel Levy, it was a worthwhile experiment.

Bob Paisley, Udo Lattek, Guus Hiddink and Pep Guardiola were all managerial novices before achieving incredible instant success in their first senior roles.

Thus, Tim Sherwood – as the club’s director of youth development – was judged to have had the right profile and temperament to freshen a shackled squad.

Equally, in taking over mid-season, Sherwood did not have all that difficult a mandate with a club he has been synonymous with for a combined ten years.

A bounce was inevitable: André Villas-Boas’ last match in charge of Tottenham was a catastrophic 0-5 defeat to Liverpool at White Hart Lane on 15 December.

It was an ignominious end for the Portuguese, amid a hollow siege mentality against the media and, at times, even Spurs’ fans.

The predicted title charge – following a £105 million summer splurge – never materialised and Villas-Boas left the club eight points off top spot.

Instead, for Sherwood, attention turned towards a more achievable goal: Tottenham reaching the Champions League for the first time since 2011.

If that could be achieved, alongside a domestic cup or a Europa League title, Sherwood would surely be trusted to liaise with Franco Baldini ahead of the 2014-15 campaign.

It was all a hark back to Roberto Di Matteo’s glorious four-month interim spell as Chelsea manager in 2012.

Villas-Boas’ tactical stiltedness was to be abandoned; Sherwood was to channel the man who brought him back to Tottenham in the first place, Harry Redknapp.

Redknapp – a manager who relies heavily on simple instructions, free roles and group harmony – managed Sherwood at Portsmouth in 2003-04 and was the key figure behind Sherwood’s appointment in 2008.

Ultimately, though, the similarities do not end there; just like Redknapp, it seems Sherwood will be unceremoniously discarded at the end of the season for a foreign option.

Awarded an 18-month contract after a debut win, a 2-3 victory against Southampton in December, the following five months always felt like an audition for Sherwood.

Louis van Gaal, after all, was Levy’s first-choice but would not be able take the role until after the World Cup.

At times, though, it seemed Sherwood relished the Dutchman’s shadow: operating without pressure or a long-term target, Sherwood led Tottenham to six wins in his first seven Premier League games.

Equally, the respective emergence and re-emergence of Nabil Bentaleb and Emmanuel Adebayor showed what Sherwood could achieve in a short space of time.

Yet, it has been organised chaos of sorts: there has not been an identifiable playing style or philosophy, and Sherwood’s ultimate 53.94% win percentage is actually worse than his panned predecessor.

In, effectively, turning on his own players after the 4-0 defeat to Chelsea – having previously established a markedly better relationship with his players than Villas-Boas had – it seems the final straw.

After all, amid being outclassed by Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea in recent months, are Tottenham any better off than they had been under Villas-Boas?

With Spurs, Villas-Boas has a haul of 16 points from a possible 45 (36%) against Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool in the Premier League.

Sherwood has acknowledged that Spurs are lacking this big-game winning mentality but ironically,  in turn, Levy has identified van Gaal as the man with the character and experience to address that issue.

The Author

Ciaran Kelly

Sports writer and author of José Mourinho: The Rise of the Translator, featuring exclusive interviews with key figures not synonymous with the traditional Mourinho narrative and Johan Cruyff: The Total Voetballer, an ebook which peaked in the Top 40 of Amazon's top 100 Sports Books' chart. I have also written for Britain best selling football magazine, FourFourTwo and other British publications. I am a fully qualified reporter with an NCTJ Diploma in Journalism and a Masters degree in Sports Journalism from St. Mary's University, London.

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