I Don’t Believe In Sherwood, I Just Believe In Spurs

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

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18 Responses to I Don’t Believe In Sherwood, I Just Believe In Spurs

  1. Warren February 3, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    An excellent article, and couldn’t agree more.

    • Shahied February 3, 2014 at 10:49 am #

      Brilliant article, it tells exactly how us spurs supporters view things at the Lane. I’m in Cape Town, but I’m gutted when I witness what is going on at my beloved spurs from afar. My dream is still to be at WHL against the gooners, AND we actually come up with a result ( 5-2 will do nicely) Is it a reality with Shitwood in charge?? NOT A CHANCE.

  2. Jack February 3, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Very well written article and i think this expresses what alot of spurs fans feel.
    This season has been the least i have enjoyed, how can you spend 100 million and that be so?
    I can’t wait for Sherwood to go and get someone in for once who’s goner be there there for the long term.
    My choice would be Klinsman, i think he would have the commitment and guile to bring back the good times and once again look forward to the weekend.

  3. David February 3, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    Well I guess nothing will change while Levy is still there.

    I’d hire van Gaal in the summer.

    He’s shown an interest in the club, has a tactical approach that fits with the current top teams and the modern style. Proven winner and has a proactive style of football that will please the fans and not be so naive and open at the back, like we are now. Tell him he has 3-5 years here minimum.

    I’d then keep Baldini and instruct him to only acquire young, promising aspiring talent from throughout Europe and Britain. Kind of like we did under Comoli. Plus ensure we focus on producing our own players. In terms of transfers and making money, this is the only way to compete with the clubs who have more money than us. It would probably mean selling talent at a significant profit and then repeating the process.

    Any profit made would than go into ensuring youth facilities and coaching is the best it can be and acquiring replacement young talent.

  4. SimonJ68 February 3, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    As with many blogs / comments (including mine) I think the saddest part of this is that nobody at all seems to think Tim will be manager at the start of next season. It is universally accepted he won’t be – how can this be right?

    Very strange days at Spurs.

  5. mal February 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    I find it interesting that the five above seemed to take very little notice of your last paragraph, not the Everton sentence, rather the one about the direction of the club.

    Excuse me, let me say that by saying ‘interesting’ I am not implying that trying to find a path through the options for the future is easy, because it certainly isn’t.

    Excuse me again. On paper it is easy to say ENIC out, and I am certainly leaning that way, but like managers getting rid of owners does not always reep any benefit for supporters, Cardiff, Hull etc.
    And to be fair Enic have enabled us to travel from mid-table mediocrity to top 5 frustration, and Mark of @lustdoctor has written well on it, then again the replys highlghted by @windycoys are no less compelling. SimonJ68 above is also absolutely correct in pointing out that Tim position is crazy, I don’t ‘like’ Tim’s persona at all, but where is the business sense in his appointment? Or for that matter AVB’s sudden departure?

    So my vision for the future? It may seem radical not to say downright lunacy of the higest order and an impossibility, but I would like the club to be owned by the supporters, not fans. And for the board to be selected/ elected by those self same supporters.
    This from someone who believes voting in a western style democracy to be a con!
    So I would like attempt to utilize the experiece of the Iraquoi confederacy… As I said

    “It may seem radical not to say downright lunacy of the higest order and an impossibility.
    Then again you did ask!!

    COYS TTID

    I think the worst part is that despite the common feeling of ‘What is happening to our/my club is the abuse gadded out from fan toward fan.

    • Greg February 3, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

      Thanks, Mal. In an ideal world, I’d want Spurs to follow the Barcelona model of supporter ownership. Develop players locally with a distinctive style of play. No sponsors on the shirt. Affordable ticket prices and a community program that gives back rather than takes.

      And then I wake up. But something is most definitely eating the heart out of the club and you’re right. The infighting that rages between us is both saddening and embarrassing. I think it’s borne out of years of false dawns and near misses. No easy solution but supporters need to stick together and maybe take the club’s identity back. Or we can just carry on sleepwalking.

  6. Sean February 3, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

    Like the other commentators, I share your sense of distance from what is happening at the club. This is in part I think down to the lack of explanation from those in charge about their vision.

    One simple example – the owners could explain whether they are serious about a new stadium. We have a stadium project but no explanation of how the club could afford to pay for it. Down the road, Arsenal, with many more resources, struggled to sign good quality players while they were paying off the loans on the Emirates. I have always assumed the stadium project was a sweetener for a takeover but who knows?

    While sharing many of the reservations about the club’s owners, the one thing I would say in their defence is that they are faced with an impossible position. Effectively, the top 4 is locked down. This season is more interesting than most only because Manchester United have had a blip in changing managers. But they will clearly spend their way back into the top 4 in the summer. Two of the top 4 – Manchester City and Chelsea – are as legitimate as Lance Armstrong in my book but there’s nothing Daniel Levy can do about that.

    The club has made mistakes but so do all clubs. £50m for Torres? The problem is that, because of the uncompetitive nature of the Premier League, mistakes by Spurs (or Everton or Newcastle etc) are much harder to rectify than if you are United or Chelsea and can spend your way out of any difficulty. I think that a lot of the disarray you have pointed out stems from an attempt to try to do the impossible. Spending all the Bale money at once was like the desperate swing of a boxer fighting someone with twice the reach.

    So what are we to do? If I were Daniel Levy, I would be open about how unlikely it is that we can ever compete on a sustained basis against such odds. We will however be as competitive and play as good football as possible until such time as financial fair play rules are properly enforced and open up the PL to proper competition.

    Finally, though you would probably disagree I’m ok with Sherwood replacing AVB. The sign around the stadium says that “the game is about glory” As you’ll know the quote from Danny goes on “it’s about going out and beating the other guy and not waiting for him to die of boredom”. Too often, with AVB, it was as if we were waiting for them to succumb to the tedium of our tactics. However, naive Sherwood may be, let’s at least stay true to the principles posted around the ground.

    • Greg February 3, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

      I think you’re spot on with your assessment of the club, Sean. I pointed out when AVB was sacked that as a club we need to stop deluding ourselves about our potential to challenge the moneyed teams on a regular basis. What we all crave as supporters is a team that plays with the flourish we expect and as for those who run our club, a little honesty would go a long way to assuaging some of the disillusionment many of us are feeling right now.

  7. Alex February 3, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    Unfortunately, I think as supporters, we have set our standards so high that it sometimes makes me laugh. What frustrates me most about the club is less of the “Wolf of Wall Street” mentality and more along the lines of “Trading Places”, with Daniel Levy doing his best impression of Randolph Duke:

    “Get back in there at once and sell, sell”

    Year in year out, we somehow convince ourselves that this is:

    1. The season we win the league
    2. The season we qualify for Champions League football
    3. The season we finish above Arsenal

    Oddly enough, I’ve never heard anyone say “this is the season we keep hold of our best players and start to build a team around them.” Why? Because we are a selling club, and that is the harsh reality. We are a selling club, and no more. We are a selling club, and I fear that this will never change.

    Bale, Modric, Carrick. Three players that come to mind while I write this that I’ve had the pleasure of watching in a Spurs shirt. Three players that could stroll their way into almost any team in the world, and once upon a time they played for us. All three have been sold, moved on to bigger, dare I say, better clubs- Manchester United and Real Madrid. Not once did we seek to build a team around one of these players, as a certain Mr Levy values cash over club credentials.

    Luis Suarez. Plays for a team with an incredible history, yet who until this season have, for what seems to be a fair few years, been mediocre at best. Suarez, who last season publically stated his desire to leave Anfield. Suarez, the centre of controversy be it for biting Ivanovic or racially abusing Evra. Yet his club, Liverpool, were absolutely adamant that he was not going to be leaving the club, no matter how much money was on the table. Look at them reaping the rewards of such a decision.

    Who knows when the next Gareth Bale will be playing for Spurs? I look forward to the day that White Hart Lane is buzzing again, that we have something to sing and shout about once more.

    Until then, I will try to convince myself the future’s bright, the future’s lillywhite.
    It’s just a shame Levy’s motto is “the future’s bright, my wallet’s full alright”.

    • Unfitforpurpose February 4, 2014 at 9:22 am #

      Suarez staying at Liverpool because the owners were determined is one of the more annoying myths that keeps being thrown around this whole mess. Suarez stayed because the best offer for him was below his actual value. End of story.

  8. ed February 4, 2014 at 1:39 am #

    you write in conclusion: “Or how about we start turning this club into something we can all be proud of? ”
    tell me how to do that when we don’t own the club, when there is no conversation worthy of the name with the owners (the principal of whom is hermit who lives aboard a yacht in the caribbean), when we don’t really know what’s going on at WHL and when the fans/supporters are essentially ignored.
    I rather think the problem is also bigger, having to do with the fact that football is all about oligarch’s playing with their toys while we pay for the privilege of watching from afar, very afar. The ailment is bigger than just spurs.

  9. MrTinkles February 4, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    As you’re probably used to by now, I usually try to start (or end) with a sarcastic or hopefully funny quip.

    I haven’t got one.

    Your post sums up exactly how I feel.

    Sad.

    Of course I’ll carry on supporting Spurs;I probably couldn’t stop if I tried. But for me the fun has gone out of it. I didn’t even bother turning on for MOTD to watch the Hull game…I just sort of shrugged my shoulders. The result was about what I expected if truth be told; and with the squad we have, that’s ridiculous.

    I know this feeling will pass – either with time or if we win a few matches with a bit of a swagger; hopefully I wont have to wait until tim has, as you say “parted company”.

    In the meantime I just want to say to Levy; what the f*** do you think you’re doing? I don’t think he’d be able to answer. I don’t think he has a clue.

  10. Winston February 5, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    Mal is right, the supporters need to look to buy and own the club a la Barcelona. Why can Barca do it but for Spurs it’s “dreaming”? Who said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts? Go for it Spurs: unite, save, buy, grow, keep.

  11. El Magnificö™ February 6, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    Please tone down your grammars. Some of us are not that brilliant see. Thank you

  12. Adam February 6, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    There’s no ‘club’ anymore. Not really. A club is an organisation constituted to play matches in a particular sport and when what happens on the pitch comes second to money, merchandise, developing a foreign fanbase, ticket touting websites, the Y word and a number of other things; the ‘club’ fades away. WHL just dosent seem to have the collective spirit that it used to have and because of that, I’m staying away.

    It’s Tottenham Hotspur Football Enterprise. Football is the reason but it’s money making that drives it forward. Such a shame. It really does get me down. I want the ‘club’ back; forget the enterprise.

  13. Mac February 6, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    Great article – I agree with your analysis of a distance between the fans.
    However, it’s not confined to matchdays.
    I think you are misguided to say a majority of fans agreed ‘AVB fell short of expectations’. Phwarr, that’s putting it lightly.
    The man was a charlatan, who commandeered a group of groupies through jargon Alistair Campbell would be proud of, and enough laminated sheets to keep Paperchase afloat in this recovery.
    I jumped for joy the day that moron was sacked, and I know many like me did too.
    He turned a fluid, attacking side which had critics raving the season prior to his arrival, and turned us into a sterile, ponderous outfit that would send a crack addict to sleep.
    Through appointing AVB (and sacking, strangely), two trains of thought have emerged.
    Those who thought AVB was some kind of 21st century Bringham Young (or a ”swagger daddy” as quite a lot of his teenage girl fans like to tweet) who had a ”plan” and his sacking has lead us to being set back to the bad ol’ days of ‘the man in the rain coat’.
    Or, there’s people like me, and no we don’t have many blogs, but we do exist, and I do believe we’re the majority – who are delighted we’ve ditched the dross AVB was serving up (oh sorry, ‘Continental football’) and are back to actually going on the attack in games.
    Is Tim Sherwood the answer? Gawd no. I don;t think anyone in their right mind thinks he’ll be there past May.
    But at least we’ve swerved the mind-numbing performances that ginger pretender oversaw.
    I was depressed until December, I didn’t even like going to The Lane on matchdays.
    But AVB’s departure has rejuvenated me completely.
    So, ‘All smiles at The Lane’? Not quite. But there is a half-one appearing.

  14. Karl February 23, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    It just gets harder and harder to see that Levy and ENIC want anything more from Tottenham than just money. The promises they have made, and none of them ever come to fruition, no new stadium, our best players continue to be sold and replaced with inferior players.

    I can’t enjoy watching Spurs and not to get too soppy, but watching and enjoying being a Spurs fan is a huge part of my life and I get more disillusioned by the week. It is f*cking horrible.

    Levy’s strategy of pushing the club to Asia and America, Yes I know other big clubs have done it, but they did it through being the most successful teams in the country and the world. We haven’t had that success yet, how about we try and achieve commercial success by actually being a successful football team. At the moment the team reflects Levy’s cold, soulless approach to the club, it promises much but it will never live up to that promise. We missed the boat in 2010 after qualifying for the champions league, that was the platform for the club to go to the next level and ENIC let the club down big time in my opinion.

    It’s a tough time in the club’s history, and it’s horrible to see so many Spurs supporters feeling so disengaged with the club, and bickering amongst each other. It will turn around, and in the mean time, let’s just enjoy Arsenal’s season going tits up.

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