March 30, 2014

Toxic Tottenham

I saw a tweet earlier saying that Sherwood is toxic for our club. He isn’t, but the current ill feeling certainly is, and something has to change.

Sherwood has to go. Not because he’ll never be good enough (we’ll never know if he will or not), but because the fans have not and will not take to him. To achieve success, the club needs the fans onside and the majority are patently not – nor will they ever be with Sherwood at the helm (rightly or wrongly).

Predicting that a Spurs manager will fail is not the boldest of predictions; arguably they all have to varying extents since Burkinshaw in the early 80s, aside from a couple of cup wins. Jumping up and down at every questionable decision that the current incumbent makes, and then celebrating ‘being right’ when he inevitably does fail is not, in my opinion, the role of a fan. Instead why not be open-minded and try to create a more positive environment for our players to play in? Criticise, of course, when it’s due – heck, there have been some abominations under Sherwood – but try to be broadly supportive. That’s my position, and that’s why I’m willing to give him a chance until he does something damaging to our club’s reputation, as with Redknapp and the England manager’s job.

I’ve been accused this season of being a Tim Sherwood apologist, much like I was accused before that of being an André Villas-Boas apologist. I’m not, of course, but I am a ‘new manager’ apologist. I have no particular love for Sherwood – I didn’t admire him as a player, and he’s not ‘my cup of tea’ (using his words) as a person. But I could see traces of logic behind his appointment (especially from a continuity POV) and I think the mitigating circumstances surrounding his tenure mean he should be given more leeway from our fans, who are as divided and angry as I ever remember.

For anyone coming in to take over after the final few thrashings under AVB, it was a tough job. We had an under-performing squad with a lot of new players who hadn’t shown signs of settling in any time soon. We’ve also had (surprise, surprise, we’re Tottenham), a ludicrous number of recent injury concerns.

The vitriol towards Sherwood has been far worse than it probably would have been for anyone else. Probably because he’s a Gooner, probably because he’s got an accent which reminds people of the many uncomfortable Harry Redknapp press conferences and interviews and probably because he is, quite literally, unqualified for the job.

Sherwood’s job has, of course, also been made more difficult by the fact that he has no prior experience of managing a football club, and so was always going to be learning as he went along. And he has, sometimes, showed signs of learning: adapting from a 4-4-2 to playing with one forward when necessary, for example, or changing things at half-time against Southampton to ensure we pressed the ball to complement the high line.

Today against Liverpool his hand was forced. Missing our two best players this season – Adebayor and Walker – as well as Chiriches, Capoue, Lamela, and Paulinho and with Sandro (who has been playing with painkilling injections) and Dembele (who looked so unfit last week) seemingly not fit to start, he was “down to the bare bones” and even had to include rookie Harry Winks on the bench. His team selection looked gung-ho on initial inspection, before you realised that – short of going three at the back with Dawson brought into the side – he had few other options.

Add to that that his game-plan – “stay in the game for as long as possible and hopefully it will open up for us later on” – was out the window after just over a minute, mostly due to individual errors.

Sherwood’s been criticised for playing Eriksen wide on the left, but mostly because people feel he’s less effective offensively there. Today, though, he showed his defensive frailty in the first minute. Of course, Sherwood could have opted for a slightly more defensive player on the left to combat Johnson’s runs, but a man with the experience and intelligence of Eriksen should be able to track a fairly obvious run and to stop a cross coming in. Vertonghen scuffed his clearance, the ball awkwardly ricocheted into Kaboul’s instep, and Sherwood needed to think again. It was 2-0 when Dawson played a sloppy pass and then couldn’t catch Suarez.

But here’s where Sherwood could do more. For the rest of the half, our approach play was reasonable and we managed to give both Eriksen and Chadli the ball between the lines, only for them to waste opportunities to create. He didn’t change anything, though, to improve upon this – no personnel changes, no tweaks. And, before long, Liverpool snuffed out any opportunities we did have, restricting our creative players and stopping them from receiving the ball in the areas they had been in the first half.

Then came goal three; Lennon didn’t chase Flanagan back, meaning Bentaleb had to close the ball, leaving Coutinho in space to receive it and get a shot away. We defended too deep at the set piece from which goal four stemmed; Sherwood could be accused of not organising his troops for these situations, but the players need to more accountable for all four goals today.

But I digress from my central point, which is that whilst I don’t think Sherwood is an ideal management candidate, he is our manager (Head Coach), and yet another change does not guarantee improvement. Managers and coaches need time to work with their squads and develop a pattern of play, a defensive structure – an identity. This is why I’ve not wanted to judge our coach too soon; to write him off.

Brendan Rodgers was widely-derided last season, as was one of his favourites, Jordan Henderson. Yet this season he has Liverpool organised, motivated and, importantly, confident. Henderson’s been exceptional and will likely start for England in the World Cup. It might be wrong to compare Sherwood and Rodgers, since Rodgers had four years of managerial experience (including another Premier League job) before taking on his role at Liverpool, but they do share youth coaching backgrounds. Sticking with Rodgers, investing in his player choices, and giving him room to implement his ideas has worked wonders.

Divided since Redknapp’s sacking, the only move that would seem to unify our fan-base is the appointment of someone who seemed previously totally unattainable – Louis van Gaal. And, thus, the revolving manager-door continues.

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  • Clayton Boyden says:

    What a tosh article this is. Bottom line is Sherwood has to go because his record is abysmal! Like him or not and for the record I don’t he has lost 9 in 22. You have to go back 48 games for AVB to do the same and we know what happened there…..

  • Ben says:

    I am sorry as I normally agree fully with you, but I can’t see anything Tim is doing well at the moment.
    The players don’t appear to want to play for him and the fans are unhappy as well.
    I think he has to go and let Les and the others cover till the end of the season. We can’t finish higher than we are anyway and maybe a season with no Europe will help our league position next season.
    COYS we will come again.

  • YidoTillIDie says:

    Brilliant article Windy. I have a lot of issues with Tim as a manger but I will (1) always support him until he makes his own position untenable; or (2) give him a lot of sympathy because of the attitude of some of our ‘great’ players.

    I disagree that they don’t want to play for him as some commenters have said. However, I think anyone would have trouble getting this lot to play for them.

    ENIC need to announce the stadium soon or we may have a revolt on our hands.

    Sad times indeed…

  • Sweetsman says:

    Your arguments make a damning indictment of his appointment. Maybe, Glenda will be given the job until the rest of the season.

  • Mclovin says:

    Avb was a class act and will go o to to do great things I have no doubt. Sherwood on the otherhand is a charmless nerk and will disapear, probably up his own arse

  • Irishyido says:

    Feel a bit sorry for Sherwood, Levy has completely killed any credibility the man ever had, was wrong to sack AVB and appoint someone with such little experience. I have never felt so let down by the club, from top to bottom. Something major has to happen over the Summer or i for one will not step foot back at the lane.

  • joe says:

    “Brendan Rodgers was wildly derided last season” as a Tottenham possible manager candidate. Says it all we have to many in the audience who are there for a thrill and entertainment not as football supporter. A London thing or is this malaise mainly a Tottenham infection. If Brendan Rodgers had become our manager would he have received the fans support that he had initially in difficult time early azt Liverpool?- NO!!!So its not Levy, ENIC or anyone else but the “I pay my money and can make my feelings known” Boo bOo crowd. The next manager has a hopeless task, unless we hire some Liverpool supporters at the same time to change the atmosphere!

    • Hemant says:

      I was sure it was Enic who sacked AVB, not the fans. They are there to make good decisions, I have not seen many in the 14 years of their tenure. The trophy cabinet speaks volumes, the declining brand and supporter base even more.

    • WindyCOYS says:

      I feel very much the same.

  • bazza says:

    A very poor article, far too many negatives not considered or papered over.

    Many PL managers would love to have the players we had out there today even ignoring injured player but also Sherwood himself admitted he had turned down the offer to strengthen as he felt the squad had enough quality, he was also to leave players out on loan, loan out Holtby and sell Defoe so the argument about lack of depth is a false one
    Coaching wise he has to take the criticism for constantly playing a high defensive line which has constantly exposed us, equally he has to take responsibility for the constant poor slow, lethargic starts, these are things a decent coach should be addressing but it hapopens all the time
    I won’t even go on about some of the myriad other areas of questionable selections, tactics and comments.
    I was prepared to give him a chance but there comes a point where you have to realise the guy can’t cut it to ignore that is really burying your head in the sand which is really what this article is doing

  • Son of the Cockerel says:

    I believe the key is making sure we make the right appointment in the summer, and let’s face it, Mr Sherwood isn’t going to be on that short list. Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting a different outcome (or as Jim Gannon as manager of Stockport County put it before they disappeared from the football firmament “keep doing the same things and the same things will keep happening”). 4-2-3-1 was a tactical formation that got AVB the sack when he adhered rigidly to it in spite of the evidence that it had severe limitation with the playing staff available, plus it bored the pants off the fans and never looked like a long term plan for the advancement of the club. Tim came in and initially in Harryesque fashion seemed to loosen the shackles and adopt 2 up front – or at least one up, one off, only to soon get sucked in to the hated 4-2-3-1. As an example, this was the system that failed so dismally at Norwich, so what made him think it would work today? With more or less the same personnel and same system, the only difference today was Liverpool always looked likely to score a lot more goals than Norwich. Tim really is a long long way out of his depth and let’s be honest, he ain’t getting any better. I think given the season is now totally written off and frankly the club would be no worse off picking the match day head coach for the rest of the season by a lottery among interested fans, that Tim would do everyone a favour (including himself) by stepping aside now and clearing the decks ready for whoever comes in. Let’s try a managed process this time Mr Levy – Mr Van Gaal – are you serious about managing in the English Premier League? Sign here please…

  • andi says:

    I just think we have zero winners or players who care in the dressing room. The effect of losing really good pl pros like Huddleston,parker and even benny have really taken their toll this season. It was complete grass is greener syndrome. But really the grass is covered in dog shit, tramp shit, empty cans Bishops finger and an old burned out Capri that has a dead Fetted greyhound On the back seat

    • Hemant says:

      The maligned non-mobile Hudd, at least he could actually pass and, hell, even pass forward. He could even tackle and foul on the half way line, unlike Kaboul waited till the Liverpool player got to the edge of our box.

      Our midfield was a tackle free zone, yet Sandro sat on the bench, he may not have been fit, in which case he shouldn’t be on the bench. However, even on one leg he would have chased and tried.

  • Sinbad says:

    I have to say it, I don’t think I will ever see Spurs challenge for the title ever. I have supported them since the late 70’s when I was 10. I stood on the shelf when we crammed in there, and games were always winable, and we still didn’t challenge for the title back then. If anything things have got worse. There are so many games we enter now with the attitude we can’t really win this, may be we can get lucky. Things have been like that for years now, apart from the odd season here and there. AS I said things ahve got worse, I mean that in the sense that we seem to continually year after year be the main factor and contributor to our own failing. The team or players (bar 1 or 2 over the last 30 years) never seems to become part of the fabric of the club, part of the fans dreams while they play for our club. There is never a proper season on season, and season long focus and drive on being the best team in the division, a desire to be at the top of the pile. It appears to me that players do not actually view our club as the one that will be where the pinnacle of their careers are reached, and the medals will be won at. We are a big club with an unbelievably huge fan base, London status, and a name fortunately steeped in football history because of some extrordinary exploits by players and teams long since gone. We are a high profile midway club now, players not quite good enough for their agents to get them into the top paying clubs, instead direct them to us, with the nudge and wink of ‘If you put in a few decent performances at Spurs, they are under the spotlight, big with the media, then we’ll get the transfer into the real big money and medals’. So they never really come to our club with the sole ambition of making the move to be part of a successful club or team. It’s just a shop window, so every player is focused on their own personal ambitions, as opposed to those of the collective, and this is why we never play as a team and individuals always make mistakes. If you don’t think as a team, you play as if you are not part of one. We do not have a team, we have 11 players who just wear the same shirt and happen to play on the same piece of grass in the best league in football under the gaze of the world, thats not a team. What we have is Dawson or a Lennon, they know Spurs is as good as it will get for them in their playing careers, hoping to grab a cup medal if luck brings it their way. Then you have the Roses and Naughtons, who came in with fingers crossed they’d turn out to be good enough and young stars, a gamble if you like, if it doesn’t work out they become squad players or move to Hull. Finally you have the Eriksens, Lamelas and Chadlis etc, these fall into the Modric, Carrick, Berbatov camp. Others teams, high profile teams, liked them,but are not quite prepared to sign them till they see if they can cut it, and that’s where our beloved Spurs plays it’s role, or gets used as the shop window. If these guys make it for a season it’s ‘get me one of the high profile clubs’ being texted to their agent. Ok the club does well out of it financially, but it’s meant to be about the glory, and the players believe the glory is else where. So in my view it’s pointless blaming the managers. Are you telling me, every single one we have had in the past 30 years is useless, it can’t be true. It’s the players perception of the club and what they can achieve there that is the issue. It is at this point that I do believe a manager earns his corn though, before a player is signed he needs to have the ability to spot or sense if the player really wants to succeed with our club or just use us, because a player with a desire to succeed becomes like a virus, it spreads,and then, guess what you are left with, a team of hungry players, who want to make their mark at our club, fill their living rooms with medals and write their names in the history books. All it needs is one player with a touch of quality, and that belief and desire to make Spurs his club for life, and bingo.
    It really is that simple, and then I will see Spurs challenge for and win a title one day.

    • andi says:

      Hey Sinbad. I hate to say it but I think you may be right. I think we are a complete stepping stone for players.but thats the thing we no longer have the players who are calling out to be signed by the bigger clubs. And that is massively deppresing. ERiksen is a really great player and I think just feels Tottenham in what he does on the pitch but most of all it comes across like he cares. This season has really been defined by that? Do they care?.

      • Sinbad says:

        Apologies on such a long post!
        I agree I feel Eriksen is trying. He reminds of Modric, people forget he had a shocking first season, looked really light weight,then he found his rhythm, the rest is history. He just didn’t fancy it at our club, a real shame for us.

  • chris cade says:

    As a spurs supporter of more than 50 years i for one must say this is the worst i have ever seen a spurs team play wheres the leadership on the pitch and as for off the pitch well enough said.If sandro is still with us next year he is my vote for captain dawson is finished build a team around sandro. Why is sherwood always playing bentaleb yet leaves better players on the bench then townshend ever since he scorted for england in my opinion he is just not looking like the player he was before obvioussly thinks he is on the plane to brazil definetly no pride

    • WindyCOYS says:

      Worst ever? I’m only 30, but have seen many far worse Spurs teams…

      • Husky says:

        I’ll agree with both of you for differing reasons.

        Windy’s point indeed there have been far worse collections of individuals lumped together as a Spurs team in our lifetime (I’m 32) particularly the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

        Chris Cade’s point the passion, desire and leadership seems to be worse than even those dire turgid times around the turn of the century and unfortunately it is getting reflected in the fanbase as well…

  • bonse says:

    Article is spot on Windy, comments section alone explains why our away form is so much better than our home form

  • RS says:

    I admire your positivity Windy and agree that Sherwood has to go regardless.

    Another reason, is to me it looked paramount yesterday when the players were lining up in the tunnel before the game that a bunch of them aren’t up for it anymore. I think part of this stems from them not being too concerned with some guy who has never managed a football team before and is likely gone in 7 games time regardless of what he says to them.

    • Skinny Sideways says:

      Perhaps, but these are precisely the sort of players we do not need at the club, and at least Sherwood knows who they are now. It will take any new manager coming in a season to get to know as much about the character of the squad as Sherwood has discovered in this period of adversity.

    • WindyCOYS says:

      Hoddle made the same point – he thought Vertonghen looked far too casual, and Soldado looked scared.

  • Skinny Sideways says:

    A pleasure to read a balanced article; I have plenty of reservations about Sherwood, but I understood the reasons for his appointment, and would like to have seen him given a chance to bed in his ideas across and develop a club philosophy based on bringing through youth. It is a gamble, but one worth taking. Certainly I do not see any more promising way forward at the moment.

    Unfortunately the baying mob who have had it in for him from day one will doubtless get there way, and the revolving door will keep on spinning.

    Sometimes I am embarrassed to be a Spurs fan.

  • […] getting a few things off my chest yesterday, I wanted to breathe some positive vibes onto the front page of the […]

  • ST says:

    Great article Windy but you fail to acknowledge the clubs flirtation with LVG (amoungst others). How are we supposed to back the manager when Levy himself doesnt publicly do so?

  • oldgaz says:

    When was the last time you watched Spurs and was not either embarrassed or bored shitless? M y answer to that is when a certain Harry Redknapp was the incumbent at WHL. I am not advocating his return but it begs the question;….if he can do it why can’t AVB or Sherwood?

  • Larry says:

    Ours fans are a joke. You only had to look at the message boards as soon as he was appointed to know it would end like this. They hated him and I have no doubt are enjoying our poor run now so they can go on the internet and crow about what that horrible man Sherwood did to *their* club. We are rightly derided as a fickle bunch and this whole situation has confirmed it. I’m ashamed of our fans and hope TIm goes on to have a great career somewhere else.

  • Nice article. I agree we should be open minded and that manager’s take time. The one problem I have is that Sherwood is clearly under qualified. For me that is a deal breaker.

    Rodgers and AVB are not comparable because they had a track record and a plan, even if that plan didn’t work.

    I do however agree that there has been an overreaction in some quarters. You have to feel sorry for Sherwood on that front. I’m sure he’s just a pawn in Levy’s game and was always going to be replaced in the summer.

  • Russell says:

    Probably a bit too sympathetic to Sherwood for my liking. We have top quality players, many of whom will shine in the World Cup this year. Yet Sherwood wants to sell all the new signings apart from Eriksen.

    His behaviour and team selections are really odd given that has been in and around the Premier League for 25 years or so.

    His temper tantrums are mainly the result of him being promoted well beyond his current capabilities.

    For that Daniel levy has to take the blame. To fire AVB when TS was the alternative was a huge gamble and it hasn’t paid off. We’d have been better off sticking with AVB until the end of the season and taking it from there.

    It doesn’t really matter who the manager is so long as Daniel Levy keeps pulling the trigger so readily. Until Levy changes his ways we may as well have anyone in charge.

    Wouldn’t be surprised if Sherwood is still manager next season. Levy’s reputation is clearly putting decent candidates off and, like Sherwood with Bentaleb, I suspect Levy is making a point by sticking with Sherwood. In which case we are royally screwed.

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