The manager has changed, a page has been turned, but Daniel Levy is still watching his Tottenham Hotspur team with the expression of a man who has just got the whiff of a very bad smell.
Defeat in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup to West Ham, which, excruciatingly for the Spurs chairman, was their second home defeat of the season to the club to the east. For interim manager Tim Sherwood, it was the worst possible start to what he hopes might one day be a permanent job.
By contrast, judging by his light-hearted demeanour for much of the game one could only assume that Sam Allardyce was not too fussed whether he won or lost. His team will face Manchester City in the semi-final.
Not only that, but Spurs lost Andros Townsend in the second half to what looked like a very bad tear to a thigh muscle. Of course, the real business of rescuing the season starts away at Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday but this was an abysmal postscript to the short-lived Andre Villas-Boas era. The chant, inevitably, from the West Ham fans to Sherwood was that he was “getting sacked in the morning”.
That may yet turn out to be right, in a manner of speaking. After the game, Sherwood admitted that he did not even know if he would be in charge for Sunday's game. “It would have to be right for me and right for the football club,” he said when asked if he wanted the job long-term. “There are a lot of big names being bandied about, and rightly so. The chairman needs to make a decision.”
He added that the last 48 hours, since he was called to Levy's office at 10.15am on Monday, had been “mad”. “I'm not used to sleeping two hours a night and thinking about footballers all the time. I said to someone today that I had slept like a baby - that is waking up four times a night crying.”
Spurs started brightly and the lead given to them on 66 minutes by Emmanuel Adebayor, called in from the cold by Sherwood, was reward for a fine attacking performance, especially in the first half. But there are still dire problems in the centre of defence where the combination of Vlad Chiriches and Etienne Capoue was found badly wanting when West Ham launched their comeback.
Two goals in the last 11 minutes from Matt Jarvis and then the substitute Modibo Maiga sealed it. Later Sherwood said that his team had tired badly in the final stages, a consequence, he said, of being asked to play a more “gung-ho” style than that favoured by his predecessor.
As for Allardyce, the gamble on bringing on Maiga who had previously failed to score in more than 12 months at the club paid off handsomely. The Malian international played a crucial part in the Jarvis goal too and Allardyce said later that the striker had “shown glimpses of what we saw when we watched him in France” prior to his £4.7m transfer from Sochaux in July last year.
Allardyce revealed that West Ham had spotted the potential for weakness at the heart of Spurs' defence - “they have had a few problems with centre-halves” - and tried to exploit it. The absence of the suspended Michael Dawson meant that Spurs passed the ball out from the back better but they also lacked his presence in the air.
The team the Spurs interim coach selected had a return-to-the-old-ways feel about it. There were five Englishmen in it for a start, with Kyle Walker as captain and Jermain Defoe restored to the forward line. Back came Danny Rose at left-back behind Townsend with Aaron Lennon on the opposite wing. And of course, there was Adebayor in the team for his first start of the season.
As for the seven who arrived in the summer there was only Capoue and Chiriches who started in the first XI. There were three more on the bench with Paulinho suspended and Erik Lamela injured. The system was 4-4-2 and the attitude was direct.
Spurs really should have scored in the early storm they unleashed on West Ham, undertaken with the classic brio of a team with a newly-installed manager. Sherwood proved himself to be particularly demonstrative, spinning around in frustration when Defoe dragged a shot just wide in the first minute after Adebayor had played a beautiful ball down the right channel to get Lennon clear.
In those early stages it was fair to say Spurs were much that they had not been in the dog days of the Villas-Boas era. They took the initiative, especially Townsend, a particular favourite of Sherwood who has overseen much of his development. He struck a left-foot shot just wide on four minutes. While there was much endeavour after that, Spurs never created chances as good for the rest of the half.
On the touchline, Sherwood insisted that they pass the ball forward at every opportunity and did not hide his frustration when his team failed to do so. As for West Ham, even with a five man midfield and Carlton Cole on his own up front they often looked outnumbered. But their defence coped admirably, James Collins and George McCartney in particular, with Jack Collison and Alou Diarra tidying up nicely in front.
There was scarcely a chance for the away team in the first half and Spurs only really came alive when half-time loomed again. A shot from Adebayor was so wild that it ended up in the second tier of the Park Lane end with five minutes of the half to play. A minute later he exchanged passes with Defoe but Diarra was able to see the ball away from trouble.
West Ham's best early second half chance was a free-kick from Collins from which the Spurs players anticipated possession would be given back to them. Instead, the West Ham captain hit a free-kick from his own half that forced Hugo Lloris to retreat and push the ball out virtually on his own line. Collins' approach did not please his opponents, especially Adebayor.
The Spurs striker was doing his best to show effort and willing and for long periods in the second half dropped so deep that he was at times a fifth midfielder. Sherwood's team needed greater momentum in those stages but they probably did not need Adebayor occupying the place on the pitch where their midfielders had to play.
In the end, Adebayor arrived at the right time, in the right place, to give his team the lead. It was a beautifully taken goal, a full-blooded volley with his left foot from Defoe's cross from the left. It was his first goal for Spurs since one in the 2-1 win away to Stoke on 12 May. Yet in the aftermath West Ham came into their own.
Allardyce had replaced Carlton Cole with Maiga and then brought on Mohamed Diame for Joe Cole in quick succession after the Adebayor goal on 66 minutes. Lloris was obliged to save twice from Diame and then later Matt Taylor. In what was to prove his last burst down the right wing, Townsend pulled up short. He had to be helped around the pitch and down the tunnel.
West Ham's first goal was typically direct and asked questions of Spurs' central defenders that will have been troubling Sherwood all evening. Maiga won the knockdown from a free-kick, Taylor laid the ball off and in the left channel, Jarvis hit a fast-rising shot past Lloris.
That vulnerability in Spurs' defence was evident for the second goal. Diame, fed the ball by substitute Ravel Morrison, struck a cross from the right with far too much loft on it, yet no Spurs player challenged decisively. Maiga proved the most effective and was rewarded with a goal.
In the final stages, the Spanish goalkeeper Adrian made a fine save from Gylfi Sigurdsson and then Maiga struck the bar with a shot of astonishing power. After that, West Ham, League Cup semi-finalists, looked comfortable for the second time at White Hart Lane this season.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Lloris; Walker, Capoue, Chiriches, Rose (Fryers 61); Lennon, Sigurdsson, Dembele, Townsend (Chadli 72); Defoe, Adebayor (Holtby 77).
West Ham (4-1-4-1): Adrian; O'Brien, Collins, McCartney, Rat; Diarra (Morrison 78); J Cole (Diame 69), Collison, Taylor, Jarvis; C Cole (Maiga 640.
Referee N Swarbrick
Match rating 7/10
Man of the match TownsendReuse content