Tim Sherwood has made it a personal mission since taking over at Tottenham not to pull any punches when it comes to his awkward relationship with the club, and it was no different yesterday as he prepares to take his team to Stamford Bridge – where Spurs have not won in just over 24 years.
The Spurs manager admitted that he believes there are those who are “waiting” for him “to fail”, although in that case he was talking about critics from outside the club. In terms of his dealings with the chairman, Daniel Levy, he admits he cannot even begin to plan for the summer because he does not know whether he will be there; instead he is working “game to game” to stay in the job.
The fixture at Stamford Bridge has always been one way to measure progress at Spurs, who have not won there since February 1990 when a Gary Lineker goal gave them the game. With Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten home league record now standing at 74 games, the odds are against it changing today, although Spurs have the league’s best away record this season.
It is an exacting month for Tottenham with the first leg of the Europa League last-16 tie against Benfica on Thursday, the league game against Arsenal a week tomorrow and Southampton and Liverpool before the end of the month. If Sherwood does not know his likely fate now then he will have a much better idea by the start of April.
Asked whether Spurs have had the recognition for a run that has kept them in touch with the top four, Sherwood said: “No, probably not. People have been waiting for us to fail and lose some games. I don’t know why. I just think the perception is you cannot be a rookie manager and come in and be that good.”
Asked whether he had begun planning for the future, Sherwood said that was not the case. “I speak to a lot of managers and I say ‘Are you living on game to game?’ Sometimes it’s not but at a club like Tottenham it absolutely is. If we lose away at Norwich it is a ‘disaster’ and I am one game away from complete catastrophic disaster. So I just have to get on with it. I know that. There is a lot of pressure but I didn’t expect any different.”
There has been nothing from Levy to quell the sense that Sherwood will be dispensed with in the summer. Again this week the former Dutch international Ronald de Boer said his brother, the Ajax coach Frank, was approached with a view to taking over in January, when Sherwood was eventually appointed.
“That [public support] is up to the club,” Sherwood said. “They are obviously going to keep their options open and decide what they want to do in the future. It is something I can’t comment on and I wouldn’t. If the club feel they want to come out and back me, then it is up to them. If they don’t, I am just cracking on. I am not going to be a different person for it.
“I honestly believe I can be a good manager in time. That said, I keep saying time but I am realistic enough to know that you don’t get given time.
“I think Liverpool is a good example. They gave Brendan [Rodgers] time. They finished seventh last year and look at where he is now – it is a great example. And that team play football exactly how he wants them to play. But they had to take that step back. We are talking about Liverpool – a club that has won the Champions League five times.”
At Sherwood’s age, 45, Mourinho had already left Chelsea for the first time and was embarking on two years at Internazionale that would end with him winning the Champions League in 2010. Asked to compare himself with the Chelsea manager whom he faces today, Sherwood said he regarded himself as a club-builder rather than one who, in his words, manages clubs who have the power to buy the best players.
Sherwood said: “Mourinho, as he has proved, goes into a club, gets backed by the chairman and buys the players to win instantly. I would see myself as more of a manager who builds something over time but I realise at the moment that is not possible because I have been dealt a hand here and I have to try to win games. I’m going from game to game to try to keep myself in a job.”
He added: “Mourinho has got his players’ ears and earned that right. Nobody has waved that wand and said ‘Now you are a European Cup-winner’. If he says ‘Stand on your head’, they have to do it. It’s because he is Mourinho. They just do it. I wish I could get to that position. It’s a lot easier when you are Mourinho telling world-class players what to do.”
Sherwood has injuries to Erik Lamela, Étienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Danny Rose with no decision yet made on the fitness of Christian Eriksen, Younes Kaboul and Kyle Walker. In spite of that he said what he regards as an absence of pressure may relax his players. “It’s not like we will go out there and go gung-ho,” he said. “We will respect them and park the bus – but the doors will be open.”
* Charges have been dropped against three Spurs fans who were facing prosecution for using the word “yid”. Gary Whybrow, 31, Sam Parsons, 24, and Peter Ditchman, 52, were all brought before magistrates after allegedly using the language at Tottenham matches last autumn.