Tim Sherwood sacked: Daniel Levy plans for Tottenham still no clearer as yet another manager is dismissed
Does the chairman want a lucrative sale or to build a side that can challenge?
Daniel Levy could hardly say that he did not know what kind of personality he was taking on in Tim Sherwood, who, for the second time in his career, has left the club after a final frank exchange of views with the Tottenham Hotspur chairman.
It was the same 11 years ago when Sherwood, having fallen out of favour with Glenn Hoddle, was eager to leave for Portsmouth and angry that Levy was standing in his way. The Spurs chairman did not bear grudges, however, and was happy for Sherwood to come back under Harry Redknapp, first as one of the then-Spurs manager's assistants and latterly as the club's technical coordinator, overseeing player development.
That relationship came to an end for a second time today when Sherwood was told by Levy that he was no longer the club's manager and a break clause in the 18-month deal he signed in December, after taking over from Andre Villas-Boas, was to be activated. This time Sherwood was informed that he had been too outspoken and too critical of the club in recent weeks, although he has done so in the knowledge that he has been a dead man walking for some time now.
Sherwood will still be paid up on the last 12 months of his contract and becomes just the latest coach to leave White Hart Lane wondering exactly what it is that his chairman wants in a manager.
When he took over from Villas-Boas, Sherwood asked expressly whether he was simply regarded as a stopgap until the end of the season or whether he would indeed be able to see out the 18 months of his contract, including a summer transfer window. He had clear ideas about the players he wanted to bring in, including Gareth Barry, who he felt would help to develop the younger players in which he has such faith.
Then, Sherwood was told that the 18-month contract was no fiction and he would be given time. There have been some bad defeats along the way, to Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool, but his win rate, as he has pointed out of late, stands at 59 per cent which is better than any of his predecessors in the Premier League era.
There is no denying that Sherwood is outspoken. The club got to a stage where they worried what would come next from his Friday press briefings. But that only started when Sherwood began to sense that there was no appetite to plan for the future with him. He commented in March that the "silence was deafening" from boardroom level.
The Ajax head coach Frank de Boer is a candidate for the manager’s job at White Hart Lane (Getty)
Since his return to the club almost six years ago he has never been reluctant to tell Levy the truth about the direction, or lack of it, that Spurs have been taking. Everyone else, right up to Franco Baldini, the technical director, has to be more diplomatic. Sherwood has the luxury of being able to pick and choose if he works and as a consequence has never lived in fear of losing his job.
In addition to that he has been unafraid to tell big players in the dressing room such as Jan Vertonghen and Sandro when he feels that they have slipped below the standards expected. That criticism has not always been welcomed.
As for Levy, it is not as if he has been unprepared to listen – otherwise he would not have brought Sherwood back in the first place and then promoted him to manager. What is less clear is what exactly the chairman wants from the club? What is the long-term vision that he and the club's ultimate controlling power, the billionaire Joe Lewis, have for Spurs? Is it a lucrative sale? Or is it a team that can qualify for the Champions League and challenge for the league title, and if so, why do they keep selling their best players?
Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale have all been sold over the last eight years. While Spurs have bought shrewdly at times, that could not be said for last summer. When the club played a friendly in the Bahamas this time last year, Levy and Baldini told Lewis that if he allowed them to reinvest the Bale fee in players they could win the league. They did so and have finished sixth, their lowest league position in five seasons.
Sherwood was less keen on spending money. He believed that the likes of Harry Kane, Nabil Bentaleb, Danny Rose and Tom Carroll, currently on loan at Queen's Park Rangers, could eventually become first-team regulars, if they were given the opportunity. In January he resisted Levy's attempts to trade, including a putative bid to bring back Berbatov.
When Sherwood pushed the club on pursuing his transfer targets he was eventually told, on 7 April, that they wanted a more experienced manager. A lack of backing from the supporters has meant that Levy has not had to fear public opinion. Sherwood has been unafraid to tell Spurs fans that he sees their desire for new signings as an obstacle to allowing the club's academy players to flourish.
Who next? Frank de Boer may have damaged his chances by being too open about Spurs' approach to him. Levy will want someone who is prepared to be on-message. Whoever it is there is a good chance that the best players will continue to be sold, while the long-term ambitions of the club remain vague.
Five Games that cost sherwood his job
4 January 2014
Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham
Sherwood was unbeaten in his first six league games but Spurs fans were angry at the tactical naivety that led to a meek FA Cup defeat at the hands of their local rivals.
Tottenham 1-5 Manchester City
Danny Rose's later-rescinded red card skewed this result, but Sherwood's side were humiliated at home by one of their rivals for a top-four place.
Norwich 1-0 Tottenham
Spurs' Champions League ambitions all but died when they were defeated at struggling Norwich. They barely registered a shot on target until late on.
Chelsea 4-0 Tottenham
Another big game, another heavy defeat. Catastrophic defensive errors after half-time gifted Chelsea the points at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool 4-0 Tottenham
Defensive calamities again cost Spurs. Younes Kaboul's own goal in the second minute set the tone for another embarrassing defeat.
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