Let’s take a step back from all the raw emotion and try to think clearly. Sherwood is in an invidious position. He inherited a dysfunctional, unbalanced squad with low morale from AVB and the man AVB reportedly asked for as DoF, Franco Baldini. That was not Sherwood’s fault. Yes, we should have kept Bale for another season and gotten a toe-hold in the Champions League before selling and rebuilding but at the time the vast majority of Spurs supporters seemed happy for Bale to go for what was undoubtedly a good price. Many may now look at Suarez and Liverpool’s success and rue that decision. It’s not often Spurs produce a world class player and arguably we shouldn’t have been so hasty to do business. Whether he wanted to go or not, Bale was on a long contract at Tottenham and I’m sure another season tearing up defences in the Premier League wouldn’t have killed him. Rooney and Suarez were both persuaded to stay so perhaps it should not have been beyond Tottenham.
The transfer situation, although regrettable was also entirely predictable. It takes most foreign players at least a season to adapt to the Premier League. Mertesacker and indeed Suarez are good examples of imports who struggled to adjust in their first season. The problem is having seven new faces in the same squad who are all trying to adjust at the same time. It may have appeared to be an exciting transfer strategy of ‘selling Elvis and buying the Beatles’ but it’s proven to be chaotic and ill-judged. It has also highlighted the lack of leaders from within our existing group of senior players. Only Dawson and Ade seem that bothered on the pitch. Where are Lennon, Vertonghen and Dembele when our backs are against the wall?
If these players cared more, there would be less pressure on the new players. Please don’t get me started on the players’ languid body-language in the tunnel at Anfield. Here were professional, elite athletes, many of whom are being paid £50-100k per week, arrayed like a hungover, pub team. You could see we’d lost the game before it had even kicked off. Our fans sang ‘we want our money back’ and they have a strong case. Let us for a moment, revisit the halcyon days of last summer when Bale seemed on his way and we Spurs fans were clamouring for exciting, exotic replacements which Levy duly delivered in numbers beyond our wildest dreams. All our Christmases had come at once, or so we thought. The new signings were arguably the best of the bunch available to us at that time. It’s not possible to analyse the season so far without discussing the changes in personnel who joined at a combined cost of £107m, twice breaking the club’s record transfer-fee. New signings and/or new manager invariably mean a season of transition for a club. We’ve been here before at Tottenham but any manager would have struggled with the Herculean task of life without Bale. The Welshman’s departure had a greater impact than anyone anticipated.
Bale’s stunning performances had papered over many cracks and AVB for all his coaching badges and Power-Points did not have the tactical Polyfilla to fix them. Sherwood was promoted with an 18 month contract and he made a promising start but has faded in March when Spurs came up against a series of tough games against Chelsea, Woolwich, Benfica (x2) and Liverpool. Yes, March was punishing but it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. We were holding our own at Chelsea until the 56th minute penalty which saw Kaboul sent off. We outplayed Woolwich at the Lane and were good in the 2nd half at Benfica. It will be interesting to see how Sherwood fairs in the final six games. All are against teams we should beat. Win them all and Spurs end up with 74 points, our highest ever tally in Premier League history. It probably isn’t fair to judge Sherwood on the basis of half a season with a misfit, inherited squad. Whether he’ll get another season to show what he can do remains to be seen.
Some fans have been against Sherwood’s appointment from day one, churlishly poking fun at everything from his accent, to his choice of clothes. Is this unprecedented level of vitriol a symptom of Sherwood’s results; his boyhood Woolwich links or a bit of both? Or is it because Spurs fans feel they need a big ‘name’ such as a Van Gaal? One thing is for sure, it’s paradoxical for fans to bemoan the high frequency of Spurs managers whilst calling for a manager to be sacked. Personally, I like the idea of recruiting from within the club and the extended THFC family, like they do at Barcelona where the focus is on the long term. Those fans who criticise Sherwood’s lack of experience must also acknowledge Guardiola had no experience prior to taking over at the Nou Camp. If Sherwood does get chopped who picks up the poisoned chalice? I have some nagging doubts about Van Gaal. If he is that good why would he come to Spurs when there will be bigger Champions League fish to fry? Hoddle’s name has been linked to the job and he undoubtedly talks a good game on Sky.
There’s arguably no better football brain in England and it’s a bit harsh when fans judge him on his previous tenure a decade ago when Spurs were a struggling mid table-outfit with significantly less playing and financial resources at their disposal. That awful scene of apathy in the tunnel at Anfield suggests we may be better off investing in home-grown talent who genuinely feel for the club and who love the shirt. Should this policy extend to the manager too? The cultivation of a distinctive footballing identity will take time but there were some promising signs in the U21s on Friday. The youngsters Winks and Coulibaly celebrated their respective goals like they’d won the World Cup. It clearly meant a lot to them to play for Tottenham. Fans can rightly level some criticisms at Sherwood but lack of passion for our cause isn’t one of them. The Tottenham roller-coaster trundles on. Whoever is in the hot-seat next season, I’d like to wish them well. For all the pain of supporting Tottenham, I’d much rather be in our situation than follow a play-thing for bored oligarchs.
Post by Leon Butler
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