When Tim Sherwood was handed the poisoned chalice that is the Spurs manager’s post by Daniel Levy I thought at first that it was an interesting, possibly even daring, appointment. A run of good results in the Premiership that rocketed us up the table from 5th to 4th, or maybe from 6th to 5th or thereabouts, while turning our goal-difference deficit into a plus, helped by a strategic exit from both domestic cup competitions engineered so that we could, with our depleted squad, concentrate on only two competitions, was a promising start. And had he not miraculously discovered the key to Adebayor’s psyche, raising him, Lazarus-like, from the tomb in which he’d been interred by AVB ( O.K- training with the under-21s, but you get the picture)? I could almost imagine Daniel Levy and Tim wandering off into the mist together, like Bogart and that other actor whose name nobody can remember at the end of Casablanca, with one of them (can’t make my mind up which one) saying: “This is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
Not only that, Tim’s plain speaking, his refusal to dispense the usual post-match clichés and banalities, was refreshing, not least when he didn’t, like some other managers I could think of, and certainly a number of hysterical fans venting their spleen on the net in the game’s immediate aftermath, seek to lay the blame for our 5-1 home defeat by Man. City solely at the feet of the referee who had wrongly given a foul and a penalty against Danny Rose and compounded the error with an unjust sending off.
At that time, however, I don’t recall him publicly criticising the players. But that is exactly what he did do when that level of performance – one we’ve sadly come to expect when playing any of the top four this season – complete with another dubious penalty and sending off, was repeated at Chelsea on the Saturday before last. Here, opinion seems to have been divided on whether Tim was right to publicly berate his players for a lack of heart and leadership on the field: on the one side we had those who thought such things, while undoubtedly true, were best expressed within the confines of the team dressing room – fans, TV pundits, reporters, experienced managers – while on the other we had those who thought differently – er……Tim, basically.
Strangely, Tim seems to have taken Sunday’s home defeat, where one great strike from Rosicky (another one of the old arch-enemy’s side who seems to only score against us – remember Viera?) after two minutes was enough to see an under-strength Arsenal through against a Spurs side which huffed and puffed a lot without quite experiencing the ‘eureka’ moment that links the scoring of goals with shots on target, as a suitable response to his criticism. “We showed character,” he said, adding “If you show me that between now and the end of the season, no problem.” And he made no apology for his spat with a time-wasting Bacary Sagna, when he ‘returned’ the ball a little too vigorously for the latter’s liking. “I can’t apologise for it”, he said. “I’ve got to show my emotions […..] I just want to wear my heart on my sleeve.”
All very admirable, I’m sure. Shows he’s passionate about the team, and that’s good, surely. But there’s another side to Tim that’s being slowly revealed here, I feel, one which ultimately can only damage the team, not to mention his relationship with the fans. Let’s leave aside for the moment that we could have been dead and buried after 20 minutes on Sunday had Oxlaide-Chamberlain not panicked when clean through after our defence seemed to be going through a collective nervous breakdown, unsure of where to go, what to do with the ball when they had it, or who to track. Thereafter, we still had far too many players showing that much-needed ‘character’ but unable to move the ball forward quickly into dangerous areas and translate it into genuine goal opportunities.
Most guilty of all in this respect was Bentaleb. Now, while I can’t condone the booing that accompanied this young man’s every touch from virtually the first minute, and am aware that he is essentially a ‘holding’ player, the fact is that his instinct every time he receives the ball, even if in a good position on the edge of the opposition box, is to turn around and pass it backwards. The number of times this happened on Sunday was incredible and it’s obvious to everyone except Tim, it would seem, that he needs to be rested for a while. Tim’s apparent refusal to consider this – it’s as if, because he brought him up from the under-21s, he’s wedded to playing him in every game – in the face of overwhelming opposition from fans (witness all the ‘Tim’s love-child’ comments on the Spurs web and Twitter) suggests that he has an ego problem, that he is determined to prove that he is in charge and will not be swayed by public opinion.
His decision to stick our one creative midfielder, Eriksen, out on the left where he evidently doesn’t like playing and is usually, as on Sunday, ineffective, seems equally perverse, particularly when it’s done to accommodate Chadli, a player whose performances for Spurs have, thus far, been wholly underwhelming. ‘Like-for like’ substitutions of midfielders when you’re chasing a game 20 minutes from the end excited no-one in the stadium and seemingly only Tim saw goals a-coming from a Sigurdsson and Paulinho combo. The boos that later rang out when Eriksen was eventually substituted were not because he’d been playing well but because, when you’re chasing a goal, the one player who’d shown that he can take a mean free kick in recent games is not the one you should be taking off. How about something radical Tim, like replacing a defender with a forward? Or, dare I say it, substitute young Bentaleb?
Which leads me on to the appalling treatment of Soldado. I am pleased to see that virtually everybody contributing articles or comments to the website, and those in the ground, seem to think that he has been treated with a lack of respect and not given the chance he deserves. A few weeks back, Sherwood said that Soldado was a ‘quality player’ who just needed a goal to go in off his backside to give him the break he needed and start him on a prolific run. Sure enough, Soldado confidently tucks away a chance to win the game against Cardiff. Sherwood’s response? Well, dropping him to the bench against Chelsea can perhaps be forgiven if you’re playing one up front and consider Adebayor the man in form. But to keep him on the bench and select instead Harry Kane – no doubt a worthy young man but one who hasn’t exactly earned the title ‘proven goalscorer’ in loan spells at those two footballing giants Millwall and Norwich – against Benfica; that’s surely just a calculated insult, compounded by bringing him on only 10 minutes or so from the end when the game is lost. To have him again on the bench on Sunday and bring him on, by my reckoning, only 8 minutes from the end when the team are crying out for a goalscorer, giving him no chance to influence the game, beggars belief. Is there some ego-battle behind the scenes we’re not aware of here?
Soldado, to his credit, does not seem to have moaned to the press or on Twitter, or got his agent to do it for him, but just kept his head down and got on with things, hence the fans staying with him. As for Tim, he never had all the fans in the first place but he seems intent now on losing those who, like me, were prepared to give him a chance. The only conclusion I can come to is that power has gone to his head and that that head has begun to work its way up where the sun don’t shine. He’s already commented, in response to press questions about his future, that “The silence” (presumably from Daniel Levy, a Bond-villain-in-waiting if ever there was one – all he needs is a white cat to stroke during matches) “is deafening.” Time to take your head out of your arse, Tim. You might hear, and see, something worthwhile and yet give us something to cheer about.
Have something to tell us about this article?