I am currently sitting on a high-speed train with my back to the driver. Though facing the wrong way, I’m at least hurtling along the correct path to my desired destination. I sometimes wonder if Daniel Levy feels the same way as his attempts to navigate the good ship Tottenham Hotspur towards the upper echelons of English football become more back to front with each mutually agreed walking of the plank by managers under his command. I’m going to stick my neck above the crow’s nest and say that his latest first mate, Landan geezer Tim Sherwood, cannot possibly be the right man for the job. I can therefore only presume that Levy is taking a punt on a backwards looking appointment somehow managing to drive Spurs forward to where they want to be; in much the same fashion I hope to arrive home safely tonight.
In the past decade and a bit, Levy has had a fair few punts already. From George Graham to Andres Villas Boas, via Hoddle, Santini, Jol, Ramos and Redknapp, Levy has changed managers at an average rate of one every 18 months or so. And that is not taking into account the ubiquitous caretaker managers that Spurs always seem to have lurking behind the scenes and waiting in the wings – stand up Messrs Pleat, Allen and Inglethorpe. More alarming even than his itchy trigger finger however is the apparent scattergun approach to who is next into the captain’s cabin. It is as if he lost the map some time ago and has decided to continue blindly on a roller-coaster Jack Sparrow-esque crusade to find the treasure.
When the dour Scotsman’s dour Scotsman George Graham didn’t work out (who could have predicted the Arsenal legend never being a popular gaffer at White Hart Lane eh?), Levy dipped his toe into continental waters for the first time. Sort of. Glenda had played abroad, learnt a bit of French and, by early 21st century English football standards at least, had a bit more about him tactically than: two banks of four, get to the by-line, back stick, win the second ball etc. He did well at first before losing favour and when he was sacked, David Pleat was dragged away from the kerbs for one of his many caretaker stints until Levy went foreign for real with Jacques Santini (remember him? Me neither) and then Martin Jol. The gruff Dutchman’s gruff Dutchman did well at first until Levy’s insatiable desire to bin as many managers as he can overwhelmed him and he dismissed the Netherlander following/during a UEFA cup defeat to Getafe. Showing a real touch of class, Levy’s decision was somehow first made known to the entire stadium and millions watching at home during the game leaving Jol himself to find out later via a text message from his nephew. Nice.
To his credit, Levy remained true to his conviction that the continental style of coaching and play was the way to go and so Juande Ramos was next up. Despite doing well at first, and inspiring the classic terrace chant of “We can be heroes, just for Juande”, the Spaniard achieved little of substance and was gone within a year. His failure also appeared to be the European straw which broke the British camel’s back. Levy swiftly threw the baby out with the bathwater in appointing ‘Arry “up-en-at ‘em” Redknapp and sanctioning the 13 hundred signings Harry needs to make each transfer window before he can get out of bed on a Monday morning never mind contemplate managing a team in the Premier League. The Jonny foreigner experiment was dead and buried. The ducker and diver’s ducker and diver did well at first (there is a pattern forming here somewhere) before playing footsy with the FA over the England job and being shown the revolving door onto the Tottenham High Road. “Next!” screamed Levy from the boardroom.
And who walked in? Only the Johnny foreigner’s Johnny foreigner, Villas Boas. AVB (yep, you guessed it) did well at first (and some would argue was still doing well enough at the end too) before humiliating defeats away to City and home to Liverpool sealed his fate. The fact that the Portuguese had led Spurs to their highest ever points tally in the Premier League just the season before and was on course to better the mark this time around could not sway Levy. He hadn’t fired anyone for almost 18 months and he was damned if logic was going to prevent him an early Christmas present to himself.
So he got his fix and one can only presume was still riding his high when he handed the reins to fellow wide-boy, Tim “nice but surely dim” Sherwood. With his cheeky banter, 4-4-2 line-ups and group of mates as back room staff, it looks like Tottenham are once more lurching from one extreme to the other. It is hard to see Sherwood being the man to take Tottenham to the next level. He has no management experience. In fact he doesn’t even have the necessary Pro Licence coaching qualifications to work at this level. It is like someone who has passed their driving theory test but is yet to do the practical getting a drive at Ferrari next year.
In addition he was never a great player. Not when captaining Jack Walker’s Blackburn (for younger readers: before Arab Sheikhs, Russian oligarchs or American Tycoons bought the English Premier League each year, Lancashire steel barons were able to perform the same trick) to the title and certainly not when labouring in the Tottenham midfield. He is unlikely to inspire those already there and will not entice too many world stars during the few transfer windows Levy gives him to play with.
He has however been around the Tottenham camp for a few years now in a technical director role in which his main responsibility appeared to be sitting beside Les Ferdinand in the posh seats and watching the games for free. I read that part of his remit was to ensure Tottenham’s teams at all levels were buying into AVB’s philosophy and playing his style of football. Kind of like La Masia in north London. On the basis Sherwood wasted no time whatsoever in completely changing the first team set-up and subtly trashing AVB’s methods, it begs the question whether his heart was really in his role these past five years. Furthermore, does Levy do any sort of long-term planning whatsoever or has he just been winging it all along, happy to abandon one strategy at the drop of a hat and immediately backing its antithesis.
On the plus side, Sherwood has told anyone who will listen that he is now a Spurs fan (having grown up a Gooner!). A key attribute in modern day football management. Hopefully the White Hart Lane faithful will take comfort from the knowledge that it is one of their own currently supping from the poisoned Levy chalice and doing his best to consolidate Tottenham’s place as the Premier League’s perennial also-rans. And if it all goes tits up again, maybe Levy will finally give Trevor MacDonald a chance. As another die-hard Spurs man with no managerial experience, coaching qualifications, or standing in world football, Trev certainly appears to tick all the right boxes…