A Manager for All Season

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A couple of seasons ago, Tim Sherwood was a breath of fresh air as a TV pundit commenting on another Spurs defeat caused by our almost comical inability to defend corners. After listening to a post-match interview in which Harry Redknapp had bemoaned that very thing, he said, bluntly, as if addressing Harry directly, something like “Well, sort it out then.”  Match of the Day pundits Mark Lawrenson and Danny Mills said pretty much the same thing on Sunday night, making it clear that AVB’s inability to ‘sort it out’ by getting our defence to show even the slightest hint of organisation or resistance to Liverpool’s attack that afternoon was an inexcusable coaching failure, regardless of whether some first choice defenders (and, let’s face it, who knows what AVB’s first choice was in any position anyway, such was his addiction to tinkering) were missing. Frankly, I was surprised that AVB was still in post by that time and relieved, being no longer willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as I had in previous articles, to hear of his sacking on Monday – he just never seemed to learn from his mistakes. I was also quite pleased when Tim Sherwood was announced as interim manager, since this would give him the golden opportunity to ‘put his money where his mouth is’ and see whether sorting us out was as easy as he thought.

And then came Wednesday, and a 1-0 lead and a chance of a cup semi-final thrown away to a mediocre West Ham side, relying, as far as I could see from the TV highlights, heavily on hoisting high balls up for forwards who seemingly had no difficulty beating our defenders in the air. Back page headlines on Thursday morning suggested that Sherwood himself was uncertain whether he’d still be in charge by the time of the Southampton game this weekend. Since, this time, unlike Sunday, there was no shot of Daniel Levy trying to look inscrutable but failing miserably and looking, instead, like someone who has just woken up and found the severed head of his black Labrador puppy on the pillow, we don’t know quite what his view was of this latest performance, nor what it says for Sherwood’s chances.

The end result, when you reappraise two home games in which we managed to make Liverpool’s Henderson, Allen, Lucas and Sterling look like the world-beaters they surely aren’t and concede a winning goal to a West Ham player, Maiga, who hasn’t scored for a year, is that, yet again, Spurs are a laughing stock. Cue another spate of the sort of jokes that did the rounds a few years back, such as the one about police releasing graphic details to the press of how a man died after a sordid sex-session with a tethered goat and three prostitutes wearing Nazi uniforms but keeping back the bit about him wearing a Spurs shirt to avoid embarrassing his family. Glenn Hoddle was sacked as England manager after revealing on radio that his religious beliefs led him to question whether disabled people were paying for something they’d done in a previous life. Perhaps he can tell us what the fuck Spurs’ fans have done in a previous life to deserve this.

And now we have to put up with the horror-show that is the long list of managerial candidates tantalisingly paraded, beauty-queen like, before our eyes by the official media and the online rumour machine. Some look quite attractive, with good CVs. Others…….well, am I alone in thinking that Baldini is part of the problem rather than the solution, and that the suggestion that we might get Capello ( who, as I recall, had England playing the sort of football that makes even Hodgson’s current squad look good) because he knows how to work with him, is   – how shall I put this – JUST PLAIN FUCKING WRONG. And that’s before we get to those up and coming new kids on the block, who have ‘proved’ themselves by some ‘success’ in Sweden or Switzerland or Portugal. We only have to go back to…….well to AVB himself to see how well they tend to work out.

And, all the while, we have Daniel Levy, sitting and watching from the stands, acting like some Roman emperor, giving the latest in a long line of thumb- down gestures to seal the fate of his latest out-of-favour gladiator. It’s no surprise that fans have now started to question whether he is also part of the problem. While he has previously enjoyed a reputation as a tough negotiator, able to extract every last penny out of the big guns that come a-calling for our best players such as Bale, Modric and Berbatov, it increasingly looks like his counterparts elsewhere are now not just playing him at his own game but beating him at it, extracting mega-bucks from us for players not fit to be in the same sentence, let alone on the same playing field, as those three. Is he a Nero, fiddling while Rome burns?

Talking of Rome, our expensive purchase from that city, Lamela, may well turn out to be a good buy, rather than a candidate for a goodbye, if whoever does take charge decides to give him a run in the team and not one game here, a cameo appearance there, as has so far been the case. But Paulinho, even in the three games prior to the Liverpool debacle where he showed signs of being a decent player, seems all too intent on proving that he is the only Brazilian international ever who hasn’t grasped the fundamental principle that shooting accurately requires you to get your head over the ball and not lean back, with the result that low-flying aircraft have more to fear from him than opposition goalkeepers at the moment. While Capoue has only proved one thing so far – he’s not a central defender. He certainly hasn’t proved anything yet about his midfield prowess. Chadli? I can’t work out whether he should be on the wing banging over crosses or in the centre trying to get on the end of them. Sadly, it would appear that neither can he.

I remain a fan of Soldado, whose only sin so far is to have failed to be able to provide chances for himself – get the ball out wide, whip in a good cross and then leg it into the box to get on the end of it. Certainly, that seems to be what we’ve required of him thus far, given that, when he has been available in the box, the quality of our crossing from a variety of others has been woeful. All the more sad to see, then, that one of Sherwood’s first decisions was to drop him and revert to 4-4-2, reinstating the Defoe – Adebayor partnership that let us down so badly last year (take Gareth Bales’s goals away and we’d have been in mid-table at best). Yes, I know Adebayor scored a cracking goal against West Ham but, while we know he’s capable of doing that, these days he doesn’t seem to possess the aptitude or attitude to do it regularly. To me – and, again, I’ve only seen the highlights – our spirited start with some speedy wing play and a few early chances was reminiscent of what we used to see regularly under Harry, as was our failure to convert those chances coming back to haunt us later on. Not to mention how we seemed to panic after going a goal up. It remains to be seen whether, unlike Harry, Sherwood has a Plan B, an ability to vary tactics to suit the occasion. And whether he can, at least, get us organised, ‘sort us out.’ And, indeed, whether he’ll be given the time to let us know one way or the other.

I doubt that anyone has sat in the Spurs dug-out or patrolled the touchline under the gaze of Emperor Levy confident that he will be the manager for all season. To not even be confident that you’ll actually be given two games, though, is something else. Whatever decisions are made now, let’s hope that they are, as Sherwood himself has requested, fully thought through with a view to appointing someone who is the best fit for Spurs, and not just some knee-jerk reaction that brings, God forbid, (cue Jaws music) Christian Gross Mark 2.

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