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  • Alexander Netherton
  • Alexander Netherton

  • Alexander Netherton is a freelance football writer. You can follow him on Twitter @lxndrnthrtn
FOOTBALL / Alexander Netherton

Tim Sherwood has the unfortunate English disease of a surfeit self-belief

Tim Sherwood has the unfortunate English disease of a surfeit self-belief

There has been an impressive amount written about Tim Sherwood’s mild cheddar predilection, and what that says about the man. Mild cheddar is possibly the world’s most boring and simple cheese in existence. It isn’t really ready yet, and there are similar cheeses which have the base but are far superior. To get from mild cheddar to something delicious needs time, experience and expertise, none of which Sherwood appears to have. Sherwood does, however, have the English disease of a surfeit self-belief where a little humility and willingness to learn might be better used.

In the fall-out to the embarrassing 4-0 defeat to Chelsea at the weekend, Sherwood launched his toys so far from his pram that some of them achieved orbit. "I am in the mood to blow up with anyone" he said, perhaps forgetting that he was the manager who had led his side to a 4-0 defeat, and should probably be considering what instructions he had given to ensure that almost of all of his players were well below standard, and this is on the back of a run of results that alternately satisfy the bare minimum (beating Cardiff 1-0, for example), or end in disappointing results (losing away to a terrible Norwich side).

He also said that he would not want to ever go back to being an assistant manager again, because he said, "I am too opinionated." This recalls the most annoying trait in English culture over the new millenium, which is the idea that to have strong opinions is a value in itself, and that it is the willingness to be loud and obnoxious with those opinions, rather than the strength of the argument behind those opinions that matter most.

As he said about his falling out with Glenn Hoddle,"We clashed. I had an opinion and he obviously didn’t want to hear it." Now, Glenn Hoddle was one of the best English players of his era, and was able to make a success of playing in France, where they have all kinds of cheeses, and also managed England to some of their best performances in his time as manager. Tim Sherwood, on the other hand, played for Blackburn and Spurs. There is a reason that Hoddle probably didn’t want to hear Sherwood’s opinion, and it’s demonstrated every time he is interviewed, and increasingly when Tottenham go on the pitch to play football. He just doesn’t seem to know very much, and he doesn’t seem to be a constructive person to engage with, either.

He does seem to be a fan of one England manager, though. He said that Roy Hodgson was “the best coach I ever worked with.” That is, of course, the same Hodgson who so impressed at Liverpool and also is the saviour of the England team, with his two banks of four and football so staid it makes changing your citizenship to literally anywhere else in the world seem appealing. It is also reflected in the utter lack of nuance of Spurs’ approach to football. As soon as they have to play a team with a modicum of intelligence, they struggle. As soon as they have to retain possession, they struggle. For England, see Spurs.

It’s often said that a good way to judge someone’s general decency is how they treat waiters in a restaurant. And that probably extends to how footballers or other celebrities treat interviewers, especially when they’re doing the footballer a favour with a promotional puff piece. So when Tim Sherwood was given the chance to talk about the magazine he used to run, it is demonstrative that he chose to mock the interviewer for bringing up the opulent goods advertised, telling him, “Have you ever seen a copy. No? See, you don’t get it then because you’re not privileged.”

There is a dignity in being aware that you might earn more than someone else and handle the circumstance sensitively, and certainly not insulting them with the fact, and then there is Tim Sherwood’s approach. One indicates that you have a sense that a human’s worth is not just in money, and that you might understand how to motivate someone, and the other indicates you are Tim Sherwood.

Sherwood also noted that, when it came to public support from his chairman, “the silence is deafening.”  This more or less sums up Sherwood. He has so far failed to make any case for his contract to be extended beyond the eighteen months already agreed. He has not shown that he is a superior manager, either, to Louis Van Gaal. And this is where the problem is. Many think that Van Gaal will be replacing Sherwood in the summer, once he finishes his obligations with the Dutch side, and that Sherwood is again engaging in the brinkmanship that got him the job in the first place.

When Andre Villas-Boas was sacked, Sherwood was put in temporary charge and essentially backed Daniel Levy into a corner, impressively so, and secured a contract beyond the summer. Now, though, he is attempting to secure not just his contract for that long, but his job, too. The easiest way for Sherwood to do that now is to win games, and to demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of football in a way that at least hints that Van Gaal is not a clearly better option. And he’s failing to do so. That’s why he has fallen back on what seems his default setting - public belligerence and blame.

Towards the end of his press obligations, he said of Spurs that, ‘more and more we need to stand up and be counted.’ There’s an element of truth there, but it betrays what the problems really are. It is not a lack of effort, it is a failure to assimilate technically superior players into playing a technically superior type of football, one that won’t leave them exposed by the best sides and resigned to treading water in the Premier League. Tim Sherwood has stood up, and he has been counted. But more and more, what Spurs need is an excellent manager with a justified sense of self-belief, a track record of success, and an ability to encourage, rather than blame, his players and staff.