The news of Tim Sherwood‘s appointment as Tottenham manager, some say until the end of next season, will come as a surprise to many, a shock to some and confirmation of Spurs’ continuing decline to the knowledgeable few. To say that the response of the White Hart Lane faithful is unenthusiastic is to be extremely charitable. The Spurs fans are trying to put a brave face on the whole matter, trying to understand what is going on behind Daniel Levy‘s petulantly dissatisfied expression – but you can tell that deep down inside, they’re glumly watching the big clubs disappearing over a distant horizon which, not so long ago, represented the tantalisingly attainable Promised Land for North London’s second club.
As I’ve previously written, the failure of Spurs to pip Arsenal to Champions League qualification was the death-knell to their immediate ambitions of being a truly big club themselves. It wasn’t an easy opportunity to miss; Spurs had been in a great position – seemingly almost home and dry. And yet, against the odds, they managed to achieve failure from out of the very jaws of success. They contrived somehow to squander their best chance of dining at the top table, and thereby put the tin lid on any chance of Gareth Bale (or “Spurs” as he was widely known last season) wasting any more of his meteoric career yearning for a team to suit his talent. So it’s likely to be a diet of crumbs for Spurs from now on, especially if they manage to miss out on Europe altogether next season – a distinct possibility for the envious mid-table outfit. It’s this kind of losing habit that has seen an allegedly major club fail to win a League Title for over half a century.
There is, it appears, a subtext behind the appointment of Sherwood, and the gist of what’s to be read between the lines is: “Louis van Gaal (nod, wink) … after the World Cup, of course … keep it under your hat, old fellow.” Quite why a coach with the reputation of van Gaal would want to move from a post with one of Europe’s better national sides, to take up the reins of a London club in the perpetual shadow of giants Arsenal, is not explained. The additional niggle that Spurs will probably be Champions League onlookers again, with all the top players studiously avoiding eye contact when a move to N17 is mooted, is hardly likely to help turn fanciful ambition into blessed reality. World-class coaches are hard to recruit for urchin clubs who have their noses permanently pressed up against the sweet-shop window, whilst the rich kids gorge inside.
Spurs may after all find themselves having to grant Tim Sherwood his desired longer-term contract, something that is currently causing Daniel Levy to wear an expression even more pained and long-suffering than usual. Levy’s desire for a cheap stop-gap appointment, prior to a high-profile swoop after the summer’s shenanigans in Brazil, may well be thwarted by circumstances beyond even his control. How ironic it would be if it turned out that AVB had been made to walk the plank, only for it to transpire that the newly-promoted 3rd mate can’t even navigate, causing the ship to founder for want of an experienced presence on the bridge. 3rd Mate Sherwood’s total lack of impressive top-level qualifications, or indeed any real experience, is worrying more than a few with the club’s best interests at heart – and I find it rather puzzling, too.
What seems certain is that Sherwood, for all his fighting talk of wanting to be at the helm for ten years, is in Levy’s confused mind very much of a short-term, dodgy quality option for the here and now – with the indistinct future more a subject for wishful thinking. After all, a slightly scratchy win at Southampton seems an odd basis for what is a crucial appointment; there is an air of the knee-jerk about it, a feeling of sticking plasters being applied to an arterial gusher that threatens to bleed Tottenham’s season dry. Arsenal’s current minor stumble is but cold comfort to any Spurs fan with clear vision and a nose for stormy weather approaching. The Gunners still seem set fair for a continuation of their top four habit at the very least, whilst there is no sign of any significant improvement in Spurs’ own more modest possibilities. Sherwood as boss is no more and no less than a chilling confirmation of those uncomfortable, unpalatable facts. It’s not going to be a very Happy New Year for the fans of North London’s also-rans.