Sherwood still just a stopgap measure for Spurs

Posted by John Crace

On Sunday, Tim Sherwood played his all-or-nothing card by picking an attacking team to play Southampton. His message was clear: No matter how many goals we concede, I back us to score more. With an away win in the bag and the Spurs' ship -- temporarily, at least -- stabilised, the caretaker manager came out with a defiant message to the chairman, Daniel Levy. Talking about his position at the postmatch news conference, Sherwood said, "We have to speak about it long-term with the chairman. If it's down to me, I'm getting a 10-year contract now."

Late on Monday evening, Sherwood appeared to get the full benefit of his all-or-nothing card when Tottenham announced it was making him head coach until the end of the 2014-15 season. The reality is that Sherwood has, in all likelihood, got the job until just the end of the season. The extra year is an agent sweetener: a deal to make it look as if the Spurs' board has confidence in its new appointment, and to give Sherwood a financial cushion when he is replaced in the summer.

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For once, Levy has been caught out by someone playing him at his own game. Levy had run out of options and, by winning at Southampton on Sunday, Sherwood had the chairman over a barrel. Levy sacked Andre Villas-Boas in a fit of pique on the day after Spurs were humiliated at home to Liverpool. The chairman's anger wasn't so much about the nature of the defeat -- though that was more than bad enough -- but about AVB's stubbornness in refusing to concede that his tactical system wasn't working. The manager was adamant he wasn't going to change direction, nor was he willing to admit the Togolese striker, Emmanuel Adebayor, back into the fold. For both these offences, AVB had to go.

Only Levy had no one lined up to take his place. A more accommodating and more astute negotiator might have reckoned it would be better for the club to delay AVB's departure until a replacement had been found. That's the way the big clubs operate. Whenever possible, they keep their dirty linen and infighting behind closed doors for the sake of continuity. But it's not Levy's way. Cross the line and you're out. AVB crossed that line and he went.

That meant there was no one else but Sherwood to take over on a temporary match-by-match basis until a permanent appointment was made. So Sherwood was duly promoted and the media had a field week trying to guess who would be the next head coach. Dozens of names were put in the frame, including Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup, Mauricio Pochettino, Frank de Boer, Carlos Queiroz and Louis Van Gaal, only for them all to melt away long before a serious offer was made. None of them wanted to leave their current teams and there's a fair chance that some of them didn't fancy working with Levy. Managing Spurs is more of a poisoned chalice than many jobs in football.

So the only serious contender for the job, other than Sherwood, was Glenn Hoddle, the former Spurs and England manager, who had consistently reiterated his availability in interviews. Hoddle was the fans' choice: a Spurs legend with Spurs blood in his veins. But for Levy there were too many unknowns. Hoddle hasn't worked in football management since leaving Wolves in 2006. More importantly perhaps, he is also very much his own man, someone who wouldn't be dictated to by Levy. Sherwood, though, is very much Levy's man. His team selections and 4-4-2 formation for both the West Ham and Southampton games were ones of which he knew the chairman would approve.

Following the 3-2 win at Southampton, Levy had little choice but to give Sherwood the job until the end of the season, for no other reason than he couldn't be seen to be dithering and doing nothing. A prolonged vacuum at a football club is an abyss into which players and results can go into free fall, and though the season might already be a write-off for a top-four place, no one on the Spurs' board is going to admit it yet.

Sherwood it is then. For now. The club and fans can only hope that he can inspire the team with the spirit and self-belief to build on the win at Southampton. Remember what Roberto di Matteo achieved as a stand-in manager after AVB was sacked by Chelsea? If Sherwood could lift a trophy, Spurs would be delighted. But remember also that not even winning the Champions League was enough to keep di Matteo his job. And whatever Sherwood achieves is unlikely to keep him his. Come May, the manager's door at White Hart Lane will be revolving once more.


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