Comment: ECB could learn how to handle 'difficult' players from the way Tim Sherwood has dealt with Emmanuel Adebayor at Tottenham - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Comment: ECB could learn how to handle 'difficult' players from the way Tim Sherwood has dealt with Emmanuel Adebayor at Tottenham

Sherwood has massaged Adebayor’s ego, picked him and played to his strengths

The day was cold and wet, the venue distant and dilapidated. As we began changing, Dave, our manager, gathered the boots of Ted and Cab, threw them out of the window, and said: “You won’t be needing those lads. You’re not playing.” The pair had failed to turn up the previous week, having enjoyed a lively Saturday night. Neither had driven to this match so they had to wait while the remaining 11 played.

Ted was our best player, by a distance, but that cut no ice. Whatever the level, loyalty to the team counts. In the soundbite beloved of some coaches: “There is no ‘I’ in team.”

But, there is an “I” in “winning” and, in professional sport, it is not the taking part that matters most, it is the winning.

While the England and Wales Cricket Board and its lawyers were drafting their carefully worded character assassination of Kevin Pietersen, across north London Emmanuel Adebayor was scoring his seventh goal in 11 matches since being recalled by Tim Sherwood, securing another victory for Tottenham. When this news reached Lord’s the more astute might have pondered: “Isn’t Adebayor another gifted but difficult bloke who keeps falling out with the management? Seems to be happy enough now.”

It takes all sorts to make a successful dressing room and the best players are often the hardest to handle. When dealing with them the art of good management is knowing where to draw the line, not drawing it inflexibly, and getting the rest of the team to accept some players do deserve special treatment. Neil Warnock has described on these pages how he indulged Adel Taarabt at Queen’s Park Rangers, noting a key aspect was getting senior pros like Clint Hill and Sean Derry to assent. As he told them, “You may not like how he behaves, but we won’t get in the Premier League without him.” Taarabt once turned up shortly before a game having gone missing for several days. Warnock asked goalkeeper Paddy Kenny what he should do. “Play him, gaffer, he’ll win us the game.” And he did.

Sherwood inherited a player who had been frozen out by Andre Villas-Boas primarily for questioning his authority – much as Pietersen seems to have done with Andy Flower and Alastair Cook. To judge from his time at Chelsea, Villas-Boas is prone to making enemies, but so is Adebayor. He has not only fallen out with Nicklas Bentdner and Roberto Mancini, which is easy enough to do, but also Arsène Wenger, Robin van Persie, Vincent Kompany and Harry Redknapp. And those are the ones we know about.

Adebayor is high-maintenance. But when his mood is right he is as good a centre-forward as any. Sherwood is not an arm-round-the-shoulder manager, but he has publicly massaged Adebayor’s ego, picked him, and played to his strengths. If Adebayor is partly driven by a desire to prove Villas-Boas and others wrong – as his comments suggest – Sherwood will not mind as long as he keeps doing so.

And this is the crux. Difficult players are tolerated as long as they perform. Warnock left out Taarabt after QPR were promoted because his performances dipped. So have Pietersen’s. His status as England’s highest run-maker (in all forms of the game) is less significant than his declining average. However, so abject were his team-mates he still topped the averages in Australia.

Pietersen has always been a man apart. After England won the 2005 Ashes Trent Bridge Test I had the fortune of spending some time with the victorious team. Geraint Jones had been having a difficult series but he was very much at the centre of events and it was easy to see why he had kept his place, as the wicketkeeper is a key player in team harmony. After a while we left the team to it and we went to a bar next door. Where we found Pietersen, celebrating separately. So what? A few weeks later he secured the Ashes at The Oval and everyone loved KP.

Eight years on, many still do but not, it seems, at ECB HQ. Cook has evidently decided he cannot handle Pietersen and the new managing director and head of selectors have backed the captain without waiting for the incoming team coach, or for the World Twenty20, which Cook is not playing in. The coach for that tournament, Ashley Giles, had praised Pietersen’s value, but must now do without him.

It is a horrible mess. No one is suggesting Pietersen is easy to deal with, but the hurried manner of his axing suggests a failure of leadership. It is England’s fortune that this summer’s visitors, India and Sri Lanka, travel so badly they will probably get away with it for now, but the affair confirms the sense that Cook’s England cricket team is a functional one, which values solidity above genius and whose victories, when they next arrive, will be grinding rather than exhilarating.

Don’t compare Olympians with ‘overpaid’ footballers

The hills are alive with the sound of happy Olympians delivering refreshing interviews, which means within days the op-ed columns will be full of unflattering comparisons with our cliché-ridden, monosyllabic and overpaid (don’t forget overpaid) footballers. Expose those Olympic athletes to year-round scrutiny of every sentence or foible, pay them millions of pounds, surround them with hangers-on, agents and press officers, and then see how many remain innocent and charming. Rugby and cricket are already beginning to show signs of the mix of (understandable) wariness and (unforgivable) contempt that comes with money and attention. Athletes, whether footballers or snowboarders, are all human, and as such subject to the caprice of human nature.

Upsets are part of the beauty of the beautiful game

By all measures of superiority except the most crucial Manchester United dominated Fulham at the weekend as utterly as England dominated Scotland. But while rugby is a game in which controlling territory and possession nearly always results in victory, because the defence has to protect 70 metres’ width, in football an inferior team can succeed through heroic defence, good fortune, and a couple of moments of  brilliance such as that displayed by Lewis Holtby. Which is why upsets are more common in football. Whether this is good or bad depends on whether you believe the best team should always win.

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week