As I’m sure everyone must agree, it’s been a great start for Tim Sherwood. Well, in the league anyway. Let’s try to stay positive – our two insipid cup performances under his stewardship (conveniently, and perhaps understandably, forgotten by some pundits as they focus on the 16 points out of a possible 18 we’ve accrued and the turning of an embarrassing goal-difference deficit into a modest credit) have at least given us a week off and time to relax, reflect and regroup.
Much of the praise heaped upon him has related to his decision to bring Emmanuel Adebayor back in from the cold where AVB had seemingly decided to leave him. Fair play to Sherwood – he hasn’t tried to milk this, merely observing that everyone knows what a talented player Adebayor is and asserting that it’s all been down to the player himself. The key word here, though, is ‘is’. If referring to Jermain Defoe, we might be more likely to use the word ‘was’. I’m not sure whether we have a striker in the ‘will be’ category – though I’d love it if Harry Kane proves the doubters (which include me ) wrong and gets a game or two in which he blows the opposition away, prompting tabloid headlines of the ‘Like a Harry Kane’ variety. But ‘is’ implies something continuous, something happening now, regularly, not just now and again.
So, the question is: ‘Is Ade capable of adding some sort of consistency to his undoubted ability?’ In my previous article about our woeful performance at the Hole of the Arse in the FA Cup I asserted that ‘If Adebayor was the answer, it must have been a stupid fucking question.’ This was prompted by his almost total anonymity on the day, a performance so lacking in everything that I had to keep reminding myself that he was on the pitch. Pundits such as Graeme Souness have expressed similar reservations, though obviously, at least when in the Sky Sports studios, in more measured terms. No-one doubts his ability but a number doubt whether – for whatever reason, be it attitude, mental state, fitness levels or anything else – he can produce it on a regular basis.
Tim Sherwood doesn’t strike me as an idiot. I’m sure he’s wondering whether he can discover something that has eluded previous managers presented with the same conundrum and inject Ade with the magic ingredient of consistency. Perhaps that’s why he’s made no great claims about his own powers of motivation in relation to Ade’s form; if and when it disappears, at least he won’t be left with egg on his face.
This makes me wonder whether we should take all of Sherwood’s public utterances about not being concerned about signing a striker in the January window with a barrel of salt. With Jermain off to Toronto, if Ade goes off the boil, or gets injured, who, apart from Soldado (who’s already shown that he doesn’t thrive in a lone-striker role), and the afore-mentioned Harry Kane, have we got waiting in the wings?
So, is he secretly lining, or at least eyeing, someone up? Maybe he’ll take a leaf out of wise old Harry’s book and continue to claim not, then appear ‘pleasantly surprised’ as a ‘gift’ from Chairman Levy is unveiled (remember Van De Vaart?). I for one wouldn’t be unhappy if the Spurs’ Twitterati are right to highlight a Telegraph article suggesting Levy is trying to complete a cut-price deal for Berbatov. The same people appear to feel that Sherwood doesn’t fancy him, though the only quote from him on the subject seems pretty close to what he’s said about Ade: something like ‘We all know about Berba in the Premier.’
Forget about critics moaning about Berbatov disappearing from some of Fulham’s difficult games against the ‘big guns.’ We are, or should consider ourselves, with our resources, a ‘big gun’ and we should be able to give him the service he patently doesn’t get at Fulham. I still remember him giving a master-class, praised by Martin Jol at the time, in how to play alone upfront for a team reduced to ten men (after Robbie Keane’s sending off against Bolton as I recall) at the Lane a few years back. He could bring hopeful, skied punts from our defenders under instant control before a delicate turn or lay off and no wonder that Glenn Hoddle – who knows a thing or two about such things – sung his praises at the time.
The way he plays, 32 is not old and he could still do a good job for us, I feel. The problem is, he surely wouldn’t want to be a bit-part player, just warming the bench; he’d want to be first choice, surely. And that’s not going to happen if Ade keeps showing the kind of commitment and goal-scoring form he has recently. Unless, of course, it’s Soldado who would get frozen out in such a situation, or Sherwood decided to try some AVB-style rotation ( Berbatov’s intelligence and positional sense suggests he could form an effective partnership with either).
Some might say that we should just make the most of Ade’s current form and hope that it continues. But I’m sure Spurs’ fans who have seen us throw good league positions away time and again as our late-season form crumples under the weight of (delete as applicable) injuries / failure to sign appropriate cover / dodgy pre-match meals / vertigo / loss of crucial games / Arsenal hitting peak form / Chelsea beating Bayern Munich / anything really, are worried that it won’t. If that happens, and we haven’t signed another striker…..well, we better hope that Harry Kane steps up or Chadli or Lamela suddenly come good, reinvented as ‘No.10s’. Otherwise, the knives may well be out for Sherwood.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that and that Ade has found it in himself to demonstrate, week in, week out, what a great player he can be. If so, and the end result is that we qualify for the Champions’ League, he could become a legend. Come on Ade: the ball’s in your court – sorry, wrong sport, let’s say ‘penalty area.’
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