Tim Sherwood had a telling impact upon his new Aston Villa charges with a half-time intervention to send the Midlands side on their way to an FA Cup win over Leicester City. But it’s not right to assume that the ex-Tottenham Hotspur manager can wave a magic wand and save the Villans from the drop, with Sherwood’s time at White Hart Lane providing as much evidence for concern as optimism.
Sherwood is at least a breath of fresh air compared to the departed Paul Lambert, encouraging Villa to commit more players forward after the break against the Foxes and getting the reward of two goals. Static under Lambert, Villa were energetic after Sherwood’s interval urging and the second-half only increased the impression that the retired midfielder takes a no-nonsense, keep-it-simple approach to management, and gets results because of it.
At Tottenham, Sherwood was part of the furniture, a member of Harry Redknapp’s backroom team and later in a position somewhere between a coach and a director of football, and also had responsibility for Spurs’ Under-21s. But Sherwood has none of that history at Villa Park, none of that prior knowledge before becoming manager, and inherits a team struggling badly – leading striker Christian Benteke has only three Premier League goals and 35
It’s likely to take Sherwood time to adapt to his new surroundings and time isn’t Villa’s friend. When he replaced Andre Villas-Boas at White Hart Lane, Sherwood had a full two months more of the season remaining than he does now, having been appointed as caretaker on December 16. Combined with the five-and-a-half years at the club before that point, Sherwood was entrenched and ready to hit the ground running.
Sherwood also took on a more stable club. Daniel Levy may not be to everyone’s tastes but there is no question over his authority or leadership of Tottenham, whereas Villa are up for sale and Sherwood is working underneath a chief executive only in position for six months in Tom Fox. Sherwood also had Chris Ramsey at Spurs, an experienced coach now in charge of Queens Park Rangers, and old teammate Les Ferdinand, QPR’s new director of football. Sherwood’s support staff is as yet unknown but it will be crucial.
Fox pointed to Sherwood’s experience working with young talent as a reason for why he was offered the Villa job, and he did take Spurs’ Under-21s to the league final, where they lost to Manchester United. Sherwood also gave Nabil Bentaleb, among others a place in the first team, having worked with the midfielder before. But that’s the key – Sherwood hasn’t worked with, for example, highly-rated Jack Grealish before and that bond will take time to develop.
This is a new experience for Sherwood, and for Grealish, and many others. Villa have entrusted their Premier League safety to a rookie manager whose track record as a first team boss extends to all of 28 games. He won half of them. Six wins from their final 13 games would take Villa to 40 points and probable safety, and then the work of planning for the future can begin. For now, though, Villa have gambled.