Tim Sherwood's appointment as André Villas-Boas's successor at Tottenham Hotspur FC raised a few eyebrows in December but a month into his tenure the 44-year-old is imposing a positive, winning mentality at White Hart Lane.
Since replacing Villas-Boas, Sherwood has guided Tottenham to five wins out of six in the Premier League. They have also triumphed away to Southampton FC, Manchester United FC and Swansea City AFC, on Sunday, to complete a run of five successive away league victories for the first time since the club's double-winning 1960/61 season. That is testimony to the freedom that Spurs' creative players, helped by a switch to 4-4-2 from 4-5-1/4-3-3, are being given.
"I'm delighted with how it's gone, it has been a good start for me, but there will be tougher tests to come," said Sherwood, initially appointed to the coaching staff by Harry Redknapp in 2008. "We have quality in the final third. If we get those players on the ball in the final third, more often than not they'll show what they can do. That is the entertainment business. We have no end of players who can get people off their seats so why shouldn't we give them the stage to do that?"
Indeed, the north London team have been easy on the eye with 14 goals in six top-flight outings under their new head coach compared with just 15 in 16 during Villas-Boas's tenure. Sherwood's approach, and the scope he grants his players, perhaps stems from his playing days when he captained Blackburn Rovers FC to the Premier League title in 1995.
Having taken advice from Kenny Dalglish, his manager at Ewood Park and a Liverpool FC great, before accepting the Tottenham post, Sherwood is demonstrating those leadership skills in a different guise. The 44-year-old is reaping the rewards for some excellent man-management, most notably restoring Emmanuel Adebayor to the first team.
"He's flying at the moment and enjoying his football," said Sherwood about his Togo striker, who has notched five in his last six league appearances. "He's playing with a smile on his face and finding the back of the net. I haven't said anything to him, I have just given him the stage to play on, he hadn't had that for a while. We just needed to get some consistency out of him and I am sure if he continues to enjoy playing he will keep performing well.
"We are trying to encourage the lads to roll the ball into him because he makes things happen. He dictates the pace of the game for us and he likes to get it wide as he knows there is a chance he can score from the cross." With tricky fixtures against Manchester City FC, Everton FC and Newcastle United FC coming up as well as a UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie with FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, the real test for Sherwood and his Spurs side will be to convert their impressive form into UEFA Champions League qualification and a piece of silverware.
"The club needs to finish in fourth place," added Sherwood, a former England midfielder. "Anything other than that will be a disappointment but realistically we should be in amongst it. It’s going to come down to the games we play in that mini-league [of clubs around the top four] and go down to the wire."
The most vigorous examination of Sherwood's credentials, and his attacking style, is yet to come but he has made a fine start.
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