Sherwood’s Tottenham tenure a symptom of British football’s amateur interior

The worst kept secret in football was finally let out of the bag today, and Tim Sherwood was removed as Tottenham’s manager by Daniel Levy.

The reasons for Sherwood’s removal have been discussed at length on this site over recent weeks and so there’s really no reason to revisit them, but what is worth comment is the reaction Spurs’ announcement has provoked.  The vast majority understand the reasoning and accept that Sherwood afforded the club little reason for future optimism but another, smaller group are still clinging to win percentages and intangibles as a means to oppose the sacking.

Look carefully at those two groups and take note of what kind of people are in them: the anti-lobby comprises the majority of  Tottenham fans and those neutrals with a rational take on the game, and Sherwood’s support networks appears to consist primarily of ex-players, tabloid journalists and those who buy into the accepted conventions of English football.

Accepted norms like ‘if a manager is given time he will always succeed eventually’, and ‘ex-players are always well-suited to management positions’.  Those accepted norms: the cornerstone lies of domestic football.

Why is it that the game in this country can become so developed yet simultaneously so amateur?  The Premier League has the most lucrative broadcasting rights in club football and the competition has an audience which is the envy of every other league in the world, yet decisions which alter its fabric are still undertaken in a way that would make a local council blush.

“Oh, Tim’s been here for a while, he knows the building, understands how the petty cash works…we can’t find anybody else, so let him have a go.”

A simplification, obviously, but that was the root logic with which Daniel Levy appointed Tim Sherwood in the first place.  No qualifications, no experience, no worries - here are the keys to one of the most valuable sporting properties in Europe.

It’s not even really Levy’s fault, because there are dozens and dozens of other chairmen and owners who think in exactly the same way.  In fact, all the way through English football there’s a belief that ex-players are always the right candidates for jobs - whatever the job - and they are in some way owed a living in the game beyond their retirement.  Played the game?  Be a pundit.  Played the game?  Here’s a newspaper column.  Played the game?  Here’s a radio phone-in.  Played the game?  Manage a club.

Sure, experienced players who learn their trade and develop supplementary skills beyond the pitch have value, but we have got to start recognising the flaws in some of these people and not allowing fame they acquired ten years ago to count for more than it should in the present day.  A lot of these people are extremely wealthy and have the financial capability to retrain in any capacity they desire, and yet they are the ones for whom we make the exceptions; don’t worry about coaching qualifications, broadcasting training, elocution lessons, you’ve ‘played the game at the highest level’.

Greg Dyke wasted his time with his investigation into the viability of ‘B leagues’, he should have focused his resources on purging the game of its ‘jobs for the boys’ culture.

When Tim Sherwood was appointed at Tottenham, there were actually those who - in all seriousness - thought he’d be successful on the basis that he’d captained Blackburn to the Premier League title.  Walk me through that - how is it relevant?  Managing a football team and playing for one are too very, very different occupations.  I write a lot of articles about football and I have done so for quite a while now, but that doesn’t make me qualified to edit The Times or produce Match Of The Day - I don’t have the required skills, and I would doubtless do a poor job in either occupation.

It seems obvious, but the same logic doesn’t seem to apply in football.  If you’re an ex-player you’re capable of anything, apparently, and in every corner of the domestic game there is an ex-player doing a job for which he’s not really qualified.

We deal in intangibles: passion, knowing the club, being a proper football man - i.e. things which don’t really mean anything - and Tim Sherwood’s tenure at Spurs was just a product of those fallacies.

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4 Comments on "Sherwood’s Tottenham tenure a symptom of British football’s amateur interior"

  1. The reality of managing at this level is managing the political side of things and working effectively with the major people upstairs. That can be more necessary in some clubs than others, but as Rodgers pointed out, he chose to go to Liverpool because they had at least an element of more stability than Spurs. Anyone from the outside could see what was a real possibility at Spurs, the history is there to look at for yourself.

    Sherwood was naive to think that sprouting facts about his record and promoting himself would work with Spurs

    Interesting to see how someone like Martinez worked with a maverick owner such as Wheelan. He was nowhere near the player that Sherwood was, but probably twice the manager. A good part of this would have to do with his people management and political awareness.

    As for ex-players, the proof is in the pudding. How many of the top players become top managers? Ferguson, Jose, Rodgers, Martinez, Wenger - all had less than flattering CVs as players. My guess is that they had trained to think from outside of the game looking in, rather than being completely absorbed within the game.

  2. Simply on the basis of Sherwood’s rantings to the media I would have disposed of his services.
    His constant reference to ” Levy” instead of the Chairman of one of the biggest Clubs in the
    Premiership was also very disrespectful and of course the media lap this up.
    We should give DeBoer a chance to sort Spurs out- he certainly knows what it takes to compete
    at the highest level and Ajax will be sorry to lose him. He might even convince Vertonghen and
    Lloris to stay with Spurs.

  3. I have said it before. Some of these so called brilliant managers would not look so wonderful if they didn’t have a really good team to manage. Tim Sherwood has got a better average than any other Spurs manager in since the premier league was formed. During his period in charge he has had to deal with the 2 most expensive players not performing, with half the squad sidelined by injuries & players who made it impossible to win games by getting red-carded. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the defence has conceded goals in the first few minutes, again making it impossible to win those games. If you like to add to that really bad refereeing decisions, then all in all he has done a pretty good job. Which is more important, results or stage presents. Tony Pulis got the reward he has earned this week, but far too many of the “Special ones” would not look so special if they didn’t have £200M teams to Manage.

  4. Wow, some very cutting but accurate remarks in this article.

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