Last weekend, Tottenham Hotspur lost 4-0 to Chelsea in the Premier League in a game where they seemed to suddenly capitulate after initially going behind in a close game. After the game, Spurs manager Tim Sherwood ripped into his players for what he perceived as a lack of fight and a lack of leadership within the team.
Normally a manager will choose to call his players into question behind closed doors; either in the dressing room or at training. To do so in public is incredibly risky on behalf of the inexperienced Sherwood. If the players happen to react well to the public criticism, then all is well and good. If the players react badly to it though, then it’s only downhill from there. Potentially it can create a divide between the players and the manager and clearly that can never be good for any club. Ever.
Spurs play Benfica in the Europa League on Thursday in what will be the first game since Sherwood publicly criticized his players. It will be a telling game in terms of the effect that the manager’s outburst has had on the team and their reaction to it. If it’s a negative effect, then either some of the players will have to go or the manager will have to go. It’s as simple as that. That’s why it is such a risky strategy on behalf of Sherwood. There is no going back now.
Sherwood may well be right. Spurs may well lack guts in their team, they may well lack leadership. But to make these accusations in public is where Sherwood is playing with fire. Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy is known to be a shrewd operator, keeping his cards close to his chest, and if he is yet to decide who will be Tottenham’s permanent long-term manager, then Sherwood could well have dented his own chances in one post-match interview.
It will be a fascinating game to watch against Benfica, just to see how the players will react. They are playing for their own futures, as well as the manager’s — it’s in their hands. It’s a fine line to tread for the Spurs boss. If it doesn’t turn out well, it could be the plank he treads next.