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Cracks starting to appear in Tim Sherwood’s leadership at Tottenham

Mar 12, 2014, 4:33 PM EDT

Sherwood AP

The first three months of his tenure at Tottenham have been a relative roller coaster for Tim Sherwood, even if the wake of this weekend’s 4-0 loss at Chelsea represents only a relative trough. Sitting fifth in the Premier League, Spurs are still four spots better than their standing when André Villa-Boas was fired in late fall. While the post-AVB calm has receded, Tottenham is still a better than the team Sherwood inherited.

That isn’t the standard Sherwood will be judged against, though. For a team whose goals will make them top-four aspirants next season, the former Spurs midfielder needs to show himself able to challenge for Champions League. Though his team’s initial charge back up the table hinted he might be capable, Tottenham’s subsequent inability to keep pace makes results like Sunday’s all the more meaningful.

Perhaps that’s why the 45-year-old boss is starting to show his first signs of stress. At least, through the media he is. Having already accused his team of “lacking guts an character,” Sherwood defended his remarks by saying he’s not a “babysitter,” with the squad needing to understand their futures are being judged.

From the BBC:

“I’m just going to shoot from the hip. I’m a manager, not a babysitter,” he said ahead of Thursday’s Europa League last-16 first-leg visit of Benfica.

“A lot here are playing for their future and they realise that now …”

“They are all men. They all appreciate that I am singing it from the heart, not from the script. I’m not an actor – I work on impulse.”

It’s a view with which it’s easy to empathize, but it’s not one that will endear itself to players, particularly from a man who has only been on the job for three months. While some players to appreciate a manager willing to take a squad’s slackers to task, fewer appreciate it being done through the press. Assuming your players want to be treated as you would was a mistake that undermined Roy Keane’s managerial career.

That Sherwood’s willing to do resort to this approach this early in his managerial career may itself is telling. While we do see other, successful managers use the media as an instrument to manage players, we don’t usually see it done so early into a new job. If Sherwood’s out of options this early into the Spurs job, where will he be in two months?

More from Sherwood:

“I’m never going to take a step back. They have that chance between now and the end of the season to prove they want to play for a giant club like Tottenham.

“I want players here who want to play for the club and they have between now and the end of the season to show that they are playing for their club and not for themselves.”

It’s the same situation Sherwood finds himself in as a coach, perhaps explaining his willingness to resort to this method. The first-time boss is only signed through the end of next season. If Spurs want to move on at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, one year of Sherwood’s salary is not going to prevent them from hiring someone else.

“I’m planning for next season,” he said. “There’s no point me planning if someone else is coming in. I have an 18-month contract and I expect to be here a lot longer than that …

“Everyone gets a second chance. I am never going to burn bridges with players. They are an asset to the football club.

All of this comes before Sunday’s visit from Arsenal, a derby in which a repeat of Sunday’s result is not an option. Any lopsided loss to Spurs’ biggest rivals could make up fans’ minds.

To this point, Tottenham supporters have been patient with a man who produced strong initial results. Show poorly against Arsenal, however, and fans will begin rumbling (louder, at least) about Louis Van Gaal.

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