With his time as manager of Tottenham Hotspur coming to an end in May 2014, Tim Sherwood reflected with pride on the job he had done since taking over from Andre Villas-Boas five months previously.
“If I had started the season (in charge), we would’ve been in the (Uefa) Champions League,” he raved after Tottenham’s final match of the campaign.
“It will be interesting to see how I am judged … it can’t be on results. A 59 per cent win ratio is second to none.”
Sherwood, 46, was certainly entitled to some credit for Tottenham’s sixth-place finish that year, but his propensity to build up his own achievements personally has not been conducive to positive public perceptions of him.
Seventeen months on, he finds his job under threat once more with a rather less favourable win ratio – 28.6 per cent in the league – for protection.
Reports emerged earlier this week that Sherwood has just two games to prove to the Aston Villa board that he should not be dismissed, with Brendan Rodgers thought to be on the club’s radar following his dismissal from Liverpool this month.
With Chelsea and Swansea City Villa’s next opponents, Sherwood’s prospects do not look too promising at present.
In one sense, dismissing Sherwood this early in the season would be more than a little harsh.
He fulfilled his remit of keeping Villa in the top flight last term, as well as leading the club to their first FA Cup final in 15 years. Although their performance in a 4-0 defeat to Arsenal was rather dismal, they were fully deserving of their place at Wembley Stadium after outplaying Liverpool in the semi-final. Villa’s start to 2015/16 has left a lot to be desired – six defeats from their first eight matches has left them floundering in the relegation zone – but there are mitigating circumstances that must be taken into account. Villa’s two best players, Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph, and club captain Ron Vlaar all departed in the summer. Twelve newcomers were added to the first-team squad and it is only natural for such a new-look team to require time to gel.
Nevertheless, Sherwood must take some responsibility for the way Villa have begun the campaign.
He has made some questionable tactical decisions before as well as during games, most notably the switch to 4-3-3 and redeployment of Jack Grealish in central midfield against Leicester City last month, a move that played a significant part in Villa surrendering a two-goal lead to lose 3-2.
Sherwood has always been more of a man-manager than master tactician and, while his rousing motivation skills were exactly what Villa needed in his short-term mission to steer the club towards safety last year, the doubts about his suitability to a longer spell of employment have now re-emerged.
With the lucrative new television deal set to kick in at the start of next season, all Premier League clubs will be desperate to avoid relegation this term to guarantee their slice of the financial awards.
It would therefore not be much of a surprise were Villa to dispense of Sherwood if results do not pick up in the coming weeks.
Managerial sackings are often described as premature. But just as Liverpool did with their swapping of Rodgers for Jurgen Klopp, it is sometimes necessary to act if a better alternative is on the market.
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