This, or words to this effect, will inevitably appear in a club statement at some point in the future:
“Tottenham Hotspur and Head Coach Tim Sherwood have decided to part company with immediate effect. The club would like to thank him for his efforts during his time at White Hart Lane but it is mutually agreed that the club needs to embark on a different direction that will allow it to achieve the goals that everybody associated with Tottenham Hotspur desires. The club wishes Tim all the best in his future endeavours.”
I know this will happen. I know this because I know Spurs. Sherwood may be benefiting from the customary upturn in the club’s results since the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas but the fact that it’s not hard to disbelieve such a statement being released is an indicator of just how much short-termism envelops the club at present. It has become the norm because that’s the way things are done at Tottenham Hotspur.
It’s no secret that I am no great fan of Sherwood’s. He played for Spurs in one of the most mediocre periods in the club’s recent history and I hold grudges. I don’t like the cannily employed persona of the homespun dispenser of common sense or the thinly veiled negation of the more cerebral and nuanced footballing template espoused by his predecessor. He plays to the gallery populated by those who wrinkle their noses at the more methodical playing styles from the Continent, unless they’re writing about Jose Mourinho, of course. Sherwood is ostensibly a less crumpled replica of Harry Redknapp, with less chutzpah but with a similar propensity for outmoded football. He orders egg and chips when he’s tanning himself in the Med. He wears tracksuits. He is the sum of all the PE teachers who made your life a misery at school. He looks like an owl.
Having established that fact, I will swiftly move on because I know for a fact that he will do the same once we suffer more humiliations like the one we endured against Manchester City last week. Mr Levy likes a quick turnaround, after all. He’s probably a fan of the Wolf Of Wall Street. Buy, buy, loan, sell, sack, sell, sack, buy…
This, however is not a post about who manages my club. This is about the sense of dislocation I’ve felt since AVB’s doomed fate was sealed in December. Because I genuinely don’t know what my club is supposed to be any more.
Perhaps that’s the reality of supporting a nominally ‘big’ club. I’ve always yearned for a sense of togetherness whenever I go to White Hart Lane. The atmosphere can of course be electrifying, especially when Spurs are playing Spurs-type football under floodlights on a weeknight, but I’ve never really felt that closeness to those around me. In essence, they’re all strangers; you never see the same person twice if you don’t have the luxury of a season ticket. It can be a very lonely activity despite being surrounded by thousands. Connecting with other Spurs supporters on social media has ironically gone a long way to bridging the gap that I’ve intermittently felt on a matchday.
And the more I converse with other Spurs supporters, the more I realise that a similar feeling of dislocation permeates amongst a vast majority of us. There’s a clear acknowledgement that AVB fell short of fulfilling the hopes many tentatively invested in him. However, the manner with which he was dispensed and the subsequent fawning in various media circles towards Sherwood and the apparent renaissance of the high maintenance Emmanuel Adebayor suggests that the club is riven with hidden agendas and politicking of the worst kind.
Imagine the braying if AVB had clung onto his job in December but had endured a further mauling by Manchester City last week. Rather than chastising Sherwood for his tactical naivety, the good gentlefolk of the press chose to eulogise City and their irresistible forward line. That’s fair enough. But you do get a gnawing feeling that narratives are being written for us rather than being allowed to develop organically. A couple of weeks ago for instance, Football Focus’ preview of the Swansea match suggested that it was “all smiles at The Lane”. I don’t quite know where they got that impression. I’ve been miserable for months when it comes to Spurs.
Perhaps these perceptions are nourished because Sherwood has managed to collect a decent tally of points since he took over. Looking objectively at those results though (even the win at Old Trafford), they’re not feats that were beyond the capabilities of AVB. Factor in the abject cup exits to Arsenal and West Ham and you probably get a more accurate assessment of Sherwood’s first few weeks in charge. And for me, it’s a definitive and some might even say Continental, shrug. That’s not how it’s being presented to us though, is it?
Throughout this season, it’s felt like strangers in the crowd have been watching a team of strangers attempting to win football matches on the pitch. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. What’s achingly absent is a common sense of identity. That’s what happens when such wholesale changes are made to a squad. Nevertheless, the managerial debacle of December, the sale of Defoe, the loaning of Holtby and the continued stagnation of the club’s record signing on the bench does not really suggest this is a club that knows what it is or what it is doing anymore. And I’m afraid, the fault lays squarely with those apparently running the club.
So what do we do as supporters? Keep on turning up, grumbling away, accepting the status quo, hoping that ENIC will eventually sell up? A lot of people might suggest that what’s done is done and we should just get behind the team for the remainder of the season. It’s the same line of thinking that allows politicians to undertake illegal acts in foreign lands by using this country’s love of its armed forces as emotional currency. Winning a few matches doesn’t mean anything though. We’re still a club that lurches from one crisis to another aided by a paucity of footballing nous from its shareholder businessmen.
I read somewhere recently that a ‘fan’ blows hot and cold. He is changeable, intangible, temporary. ‘Supporters’ on the other hand, provide the foundations for the continued existence of their clubs. They prop it up, no matter what. I liked that description. So let’s have a conversation. As supporters of this club. Let’s connect. Do something. What kind of club do we want to be? If we’re happy to con ourselves into believing the illusion of transition year after year, then fine, I’ll shut up and let’s bring on the next managerial chump. Or maybe all we really want is a ‘gazillionaire’ who’ll buy back Bale and have the Quadruple wrapped up in the next three seasons? Again, fine with me. Or how about we start turning this club into something we can all be proud of? Beyond trophies and the mirage of success on the field.
I don’t want to write another post about Everton being decent. I want the next one to be about Spurs. What do you say?
Further reading: Can I Have My Spurs Back?
Follow Dispatches on Twitter: @Sofalife