Premier League Clubs Managed: Tottenham Hotspur (2013-2014), Aston Villa (2015)
The transition from player to management hasn’t been easy for some and Tim Sherwood definitely fits into that category. Sherwood has not shown any signs of lack of confidence in his managerial positions. At time, his abrasive style of management has got him into trouble but also brought the best out of some players. A prime example was Emmanuel Adebayor during his stint at Tottenham Hotspur.
This is a man who was one of the key men at Blackburn Rovers in the 1990s, briefly halting Manchester United’s dominance in the early years of the Premier League. Sherwood was the captain as Blackburn beat United to the title in 1995 by just a single point. That was the highlight of a powerful 18-year professional playing career.
Born in Hertfordshire in 1969, Sherwood was 18 when he made his professional debut playing for Second Division side Watford. His debut came in September 1987 and after making 32 appearances for the Hornets, he moved to Norwich City two years later.
Dave Stringer was Norwich manager at the time and looking to find a natural replacement for Chelsea-bound Andy Townsend. Sherwood definitely fitted the bill. At Norwich, he developed into a committed, no-nonsense central midfielder. Whilst leadership and defensive qualities were his biggest strength, Tim was not shy about scoring goals either. He found the net 13 times for the Canaries during his three seasons in Norfolk.
An admirer of his was playing icon Kenny Dalglish. Dalglish had taken over at ambitious Blackburn Rovers in October 1991 and four months later, he’d earmarked Sherwood as the leader he needed for his team building at Ewood Park.
The Blackburn connection
Sherwood was one of Dalglish’s first signings but he had to bide his time at Blackburn. Dalglish was making plans for the future but felt he should still give chances to the squad he’d initially inherited.
Blackburn were promoted to the top-flight in 1992 and therefore, were one of the 22 lucky members to be part of the very-first FA Premier League line-up. The acquisitions of Stuart Ripley and Alan Shearer hinted Rovers were determined to be part of the elite from the outset.
Sherwood was quickly installed as captain by Dalglish and seen as the lynchpin within the midfield to keep things together. Therefore, this allowed the creative playmakers and goalscorers to do their work and get Blackburn the points required to launch a title challenge.
After finishing fourth and second in the Premier League’s first two seasons, it was third time lucky for Blackburn and Sherwood in 1994-1995. Blackburn took top spot in late November and despite intense pressure from reigning champions Manchester United, they held on to claim their first top-flight title in 81 years. Sherwood contributed with some crucial goals in victories over Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and Chelsea. Although Blackburn lost dramatically in the closing stages on the final day at Anfield, Manchester United were held to a draw at Upton Park by West Ham United. This meant Sherwood became only the third skipper after Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson to lift the Premier League title as a winning captain.
Dalglish stepped down from his managerial position that summer and Blackburn were unable to meet the lofty expectations under his successors, Ray Harford and Roy Hodgson. Sherwood continued with great dignity to lead the team, support under-fire managers and quell the expectations of the supporters. However in 1998, his heart was set on a move away from Lancashire to London as he still lived in St Albans.
Time for Tottenham
Tottenham Hotspur registered an interest in signing Sherwood but Blackburn made it clear they would only accept £5 million bids for their captain. This put strain on the previously good relationship between Sherwood and Hodgson.
He was dropped for a match at White Hart Lane and got sent off in November at Old Trafford as Blackburn struggled near the foot of the table. Sherwood became vocally frustrated and critical at Blackburn’s lack of progress and expressed a desire to leave. He kept his professionalism on-the-pitch though, scoring a late winner on Boxing Day 1998 against league leaders Aston Villa. However, Tottenham eventually got their man.
With his family and business links still in Hertfordshire, Spurs eventually signed him in February 1999 for approximately £3 million. With Hodgson sacked and Jason McAteer having arrived from Liverpool FC, Brian Kidd and Blackburn elected to cash in on Sherwood’s services. They decided that having an unsettled player was not preferred with the club in a serious relegation battle; a fight they would ultimately lose.
Sherwood’s debut came as an 87th minute substitute in a goalless stalemate with Coventry City. Like at Blackburn, he was made captain by George Graham and became a regular in the Tottenham setup for the next two seasons. He endeared himself further to Spurs supporters by scoring the decisive goal in a North London Derby at White Hart Lane in November 1999.
It was in this period that he won three senior international caps for England during Kevin Keegan’s tenure as Three Lions boss. He won caps in European Championship qualifiers at home to Poland and Sweden and away to Hungary – all in 1999. He wasn’t selected for England’s final party that travelled to Belgium for the 2000 European Championships.
He was cup-tied for the 1999 League Cup final and played in the final three years later. However, he ended up on the losing side as Spurs lost 2-1 to ironically, his former club, Blackburn Rovers.
He fell out with Glenn Hoddle in autumn 2002 with Hoddle claiming he would never play for Tottenham again during a heated argument between the pair. Many clubs were linked with his services including West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa. In January 2003, he moved to First Division pacesetters Portsmouth on a four-month contract with Tottenham agreeing a severance package to ensure he left on a free transfer.
Transition into a coach
He became an instant starter for Pompey and his experience was vital for Harry Redknapp as Pompey sealed promotion to the Premier League for the first time as champions. Sherwood remained in the starting line-up on a consistent basis until Boxing Day 2003. A crunching tackle from Mauricio Taricco in the 79th minute left Sherwood in agony during Portsmouth’s 2-0 victory over Tottenham. X-rays confirmed a broken leg which ended his season and his Portsmouth stay prematurely. He was released at the end of the season.
His final club was Coventry City where he spent the 2004-2005 season either injured or often working as a television pundit. The fans never took to Sherwood and he made just 11 appearances for the Sky Blues before leaving via mutual consent at the end of the campaign.
After three years away from the game, it was his former manager Redknapp who started his transition into a coach, bringing him back into his new setup at Tottenham. He had roles as assistant first-team coach and technical director before his big opportunity came in December 2013.
Tottenham decided to axe their young Portuguese manager Andre Villas-Boas. Two heavy beatings at the hands of Manchester City and Liverpool FC was the final straw for Daniel Levy, who dismissed AVB. Sherwood was given the task of galvanising the team. Despite losing his first match; a League Cup quarter-final to West Ham United, he was quickly given an 18-month contract as first-team manager.
Sherwood brought Adebayor back into the fold after the Togolese striker had been frozen out of the picture by Villas-Boas. He got him scoring and Spurs climbed the table from ninth to fifth in fairly quick succession. Early promising results included a notable 2-1 win at Old Trafford on New Years’ Day.
A 5-1 home defeat to Manchester City though at the end of January was the catalyst to a harder period which culminated in a second half collapse at Chelsea. Holding the Blues 0-0 at half-time, woeful individual errors led to Spurs losing 4-0. A clearly irate Sherwood told Sky Sports afterwards that the collapse was down to: “Lack of characters, too many of them are too nice to each other and you need to show a bit more guts. The club talks about fourth – wake up.”
Tottenham did finish sixth with 69 points amassed and at the time, Sherwood could boast that he had the highest win percentage of any Spurs boss in Premier League history. However, he knew before the season was up that Levy was going to sack him and he did so two days after the campaign concluded.
Getting Villa to Wembley
Sherwood was linked to vacancies at Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Brighton & Hove Albion but he bided his time to get back into management. He returned to football in February 2015, succeeding Paul Lambert at Aston Villa.
He took over a team in trouble, sitting second-bottom in the table and having scored just one goal in their last seven Premier League games. He lost his first two games in-charge but a league and FA Cup double victory over West Bromwich Albion galvanised Villa’s fortunes. Like with Adebayor at Tottenham, he got Christian Benteke scoring again. The Belgian destroyed Liverpool FC in the FA Cup semi-finals and also scored a matchwinner to give Tim a sweet victory on his first return to White Hart Lane.
Although there was a heavy loss to Southampton towards the season’s end, Villa avoided relegation and he’d got them to Wembley for a tilt at silverware. Sadly for Villans supporters, the FA Cup final was not a day to remember. They were outclassed and outplayed by Arsenal, losing 4-0.
Sherwood stayed on for the start of the 2015-2016 season and became the party pooper on Bournemouth’s first day as a Premier League side. Rudy Gestede’s header gave Villa a 1-0 away victory. It turned out to be the only win in the campaign on their travels for the club. Six straight defeats triggered the board to take action. Sherwood was dismissed in late October 2015, less than 24 hours after a 2-1 defeat at home to Swansea City. He’d managed the club for 28 games, the shortest reign of any Villa manager in the club’s history.
Swindon and the future
Nearly four years have passed since Sherwood’s last managerial experience in the Premier League but he’s still a regular fixture, often popping up as a guest on Sky Sports’ regular nightly programme The Debate. He did have a role as Director of Football at Swindon Town during the 2016-2017 season but left at the end of that campaign following the club’s relegation to League Two.
During his spell at The County Ground, there were suggestions that he was actually managing the team. He was given the role of overseeing transfers but also picking the team and setting up formations, despite Head Coach Luke Williams remaining in his role. It was a structure that was confusing to the Robins supporters and it didn’t see any improvement in the team’s results.
Two decades after lifting the Premier League title on that sunny May afternoon in 1995 at Anfield, Tim Sherwood became a Premier League manager. His brutal honesty got the best out of some players but didn’t always get the results desired.
Nevertheless, you would be majorly surprised if Sherwood didn’t return to the dugout in the future. His name is often linked with vacancies in the top two tiers of English football. He will feel he has some unfinished business.