Tim Sherwood, talent show mentality, and the search for a short-cut 1

There’s always that moment before a Britain’s Got Talent contestant goes on stage when they’re being interviewed; they nearly always say the same thing:

“I know I’m a greater singer/dancer and if the judges don’t like me I won’t pay any attention and I’ll keep believing in myself.”

Then, after traipsing on-stage, butchering an old Gloria Estefan song and being told - in usually gentle terms - that they might not quite be ready to take the world by storm, they descend into a rage.  Chairs are flung, tears stream, and the ominous threat of ‘being back next year’ is usually made.

Amongst all the melodrama and the posturing, it’s amazing how rarely you hear anybody take ownership of their failure in that situation.  It’s almost as if their sense of faux-confidence and entitlement is so well-developed that the capacity for humility has been completely lost.

There’s never any “I could have done this better” or “maybe I need to go away and work on that” to those situations.  Instead, there’s nothing but fierce incredulity and astonishment: “I think I’m talented, it’s inconceivable that you could disagree with me.”

‘Entitlement’ is an increasingly important word in English football, because it now applies to so many different problems within the game - not least to ex-professionals seeking careers in management.

The ex-professional typically believes that, on hanging up his boots, he is in some way owed a living by the game for the rest of his life.  When it comes to management and coaching, he generally assumes that his entry-level into the profession should be higher depending on what level of the pyramid he reached when he was in boots and shin-pads - he believes coaching badges aren’t quite as important and that it shouldn’t take him quite as long to be given control of a Premier League team and an eight-figure transfer-budget.

Tim Sherwood is the poster-child for that mentality.

After leaving Tottenham at the beginning of the Summer - following a six-month period that really didn’t rubber-stamp his CV - he was given the opportunity to take control at West Brom.  Sherwood declined the offer, claiming that the conditions were unfavourable and that he was unwilling to work with the existing backroom staff at The Hawthorns.  In isolation, that’s quite a common scenario in football and incoming head-coaches will ordinarily bring in their own teams, but in Sherwood’s situation it was an extraordinary decision.

At Tottenham, he was simply in the right place at the right time when the music stopped with Andre Villas-Boas, and so he should count himself fortunate to have any Premier League experience whatsoever.  How does someone fail to recognise that and, within the space of six months, feel able to reject the opportunity to manage a relatively solid mid-level top division side?  His time at Spurs was characterised by widespread supporter unrest, relationship breakdowns with first-team players, and tactical naivety; that anyone was willing to take a chance on him was miraculous - that he felt secure enough to swot that olive branch away suggests borderline delusion.

Delusional or not, Sherwood remains out of work and continues to mutter about the ‘right opportunity’ - but where does he expect that job offer to come from?  He is becoming another one of these ex-players who believes that, if he lingers around the Premier League for long enough, he will just default into a good job.  Maybe he’s being shrewd?  Maybe he believes that by entering the season without a job, he will be in a strong position to interview with whichever Premier League club panics first in the new season.

If that’s the case, then it really just amounts to opportunistic queue-jumping and an attempt to acquire a reputation as quickly as possible without actually having to learn the trade properly.  Sherwood, like most of this generation’s English managers, is prone to complaining about ‘foreigners’ and ‘appointment bias’, but seems cheerfully oblivious to the need for him and his British peers to actually make themselves more employable.

Sherwood is just like the reality show contestants described above; he believes so whole-heartedly in his own ability that he has next-to-no self-awareness.  His personality is such, that he probably genuinely believed that Mauricio Pochettino was only a preferable option to Tottenham because of his nationality - he’ll have tactically ignored the five years of extra experience the Argentine has over him and will have convinced himself that he is on the receiving end of an injustice.

And now, instead of taking the kind the opportunity that would allow to one day compete for jobs with candidates like Mauricio Pochettino, he’s sitting back, writing an Independent column, rejecting clubs who he feels are beneath him, and waiting for the next chairman to be conned by his ex-professional gravitas.

How very British.

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