Sleepless at White Hart Lane


Just two weeks into the job and Tim Sherwood looks tired, red eyes emphasising the fact that he wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about how to get the best out of Emmanuel Adebayor.

Yet despite his exhaustion it cannot be denied that the 44-year-old has breathed fresh life into the club.

That might not have been hard, considering the way Andre Villas-Boas’ presence was acting as a lead weight towards the latter end of his tenure, but Sherwood is, in his own way, the most intriguing arrival we have seen in the Premier League for quite some time.

While Paulo Di Canio’s quotable madcap reign cannot be beaten, it has been quite something to see the way Sherwood has reacted to being given the surprise chance to take Tottenham forward on a contract until the end of next season.

The former Blackburn captain has never coached or managed a first-team before, but already he is talking about his next job being at Real Madrid (albeit tongue-in-cheek) and it is not hard to see how he charmed chairman Daniel Levy into entrusting him with the club’s future.

His decision to abandon Villas-Boas’ 4-2-3-1 — a system that did not suit the players at his disposal — has met with immediate approval, although the choice of playing without a defensive midfielder does lead to the fear Spurs will be easy meat for savvy sides in both the Premier League and Europe.

But for a club that had grown weary of functional football, Sherwood has brought back the idea that Tottenham are a team that set out to entertain.

Whether or not a side that has finished in the top four just twice in Premier League history should cling so tightly to such a philosophy is neither here nor there; the fans at White Hart Lane demand to be entertained, and they average 2.3 goals per game under the new man, compared to 0.94 under Villas-Boas.

Now comes the first real test of Sherwood’s philosophy, at Old Trafford today. The absence through injury of Paulinho is a huge blow, and he must decide whether to play it safe with Etienne Capoue in the centre, or go for it with Lewis Holtby alongside Mousa Dembele.

It’s fair to say there are reasons the new manager is having sleepless nights.

“I don’t sleep and when you do you wake up after two hours (you’re) thinking about Adebayor,” laughs Sherwood. “That can’t be right, but it’s better me waking up thinking about him than my missus!

“The game, the job and the club are on my mind all the time and I expected that after learning from the managers I have worked with.

“It is their life and they live it completely. I try to go home and switch off but it’s extremely difficult.

“It’s a complete lifestyle change. There are so many added pressures, you just have to be big and strong enough to get on with it. That’s why I admire managers who stand in that technical area and take jobs on because they ain’t easy.

“My missus has no interest in football whatsoever and that helps when I go home. I have been with my missus for 20-odd years and she watched me play eight times. The reason she is with me is because I told her I’d won the World Cup!”

But it is typical of Sherwood’s confidence — and that is a quality he has not been short on — that he sees a trip to a Manchester United side showing signs of a resurgence as an opportunity.

Adebayor, the man who has benefitted most from Sherwood’s promotion from technical director, and Roberto Soldado will get chances, but Spurs are liable to concede, particularly if they persist with a high line despite neither Michael Dawson nor Vlad Chiriches being the quickest.

“Old Trafford is a great arena to play in and we have to try to impose ourselves on them,” he said. “They are the home team and the onus is on them. And that might work out to make it a bit easier for us.

“I think we can go to Old Trafford and have attacking threats on the field. You have to be a little bit more cautious, obviously.

“The last thing you want to do there is concede early because then you are chasing the game and they have players who can pick you off. But we’ve got good players as well.”

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