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White Hart Lane's biggest problem is in the boardroom, not the dugout

by Jonathan Westwood
May 14, 2014 6:36 AM BST



The grim inevitability of yesterday’s sacking of Tim Sherwood has at least put a decent man out of his misery. Most fans will wish Sherwood the best of luck for the future and the opportunity to work for a chairman whose trigger finger is more stable than Daniel Levy.
On balance I think Sherwood had done enough to deserve a chance at the helm next season. Putting to one side his favourite statistic about having the best win percentage (59%) of any Spurs manager in a generation, he’d reintegrated and rejuvenated Emmanuel Adebayor and was getting more out of the likes of Christian Eriksen and Aaron Lennon than Andre Villas Boas had achieved.
However, the team was still playing erratically - and often below itself - and was still capitulating to teams in the top four.
I don’t buy Sherwood’s claim that the club would have finished in the top four had he been in charge from the start of the season. It’s all too easy to forget, but Spurs sat second in the table after six games, our only defeat coming to then top-of-the-table Arsenal. (The season's only bright spot? The Gooners tumbling from the top of the table down to fourth place.) Even as late as 9 November we had lost only two league matches out of our first 10.
Would we have won more points in November and December had Sherwood been manager then? Possibly. Would we have won enough points more - 11 - to lift us from sixth to fourth at season’s end? That seems highly unlikely.
We played seven Premier League matches between 1 November and 16 December, when Villas Boas was dismissed. We drew at Everton, lost at home to Newcastle, lost at Manchester City, drew at home to Manchester United, won at Fulham and Sunderland and lost at Liverpool. Apart from the defeat at St. James’ Park, it’s hard to see where this squad would have picked up many more points, regardless of the identify of the manager.
Sherwood was patently never more than a stop gap appointment - the revelation that there was an end-of-season ‘break clause’ in his 18-month contract confirms that.
And that has to raise questions - yet again - about the way in which our chairman, Daniel Levy, chooses to run the club. It’s obvious there was - yet again - no Plan B when Villas Boas was sacked. And so for the tenth time in the 13 years since Levy became chairman we find ourselves - yet again - scouting around for a new manager.
Consider for a moment the money the club must have paid in severance to Martin Jol, Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas Boas alone. Might that money have been better spent on a goalscorer? Or a couple of full-backs?
And as each depressing dismissal reinforces the impression that there’s something structurally very wrong at White Hart Lane, is Levy really deluded enough to think that the likes of Louis Van Gaal are falling over themselves to take charge? Instead, the club is probably now a target only for those managers seeking a healthy pay-off after Levy’s knee jerks once more.
Blame rarely gets apportioned correctly in football - most of the time it’s the players on the pitch who should shoulder the blame for underachievement, not their manager. And if a Director of Football signs 100 million of misfits and ne’er do wells, he should be receiving his marching orders rather than the managers unable to force unwanted square pegs into round holes.
Similarly, any chairman whose managerial appointments last an average of 15 months should be facing serious questions both from fans and shareholders.
The received wisdom among Harry Redknapp’s friends in the British media is that things started to go wrong for Spurs only when Levy sacked Redknapp. That’s nonsense. Levy’s managerial appointments and dismissals were suspect long before then.
The same media would have us believe that Frank de Boer is among the frontrunners for the vacancy. That would be nice to believe. But why would a young and ambitious manager who’s just won his fourth successive Dutch title with Ajax (making them a permanent fixture in the Champions League) choose to join a dysfunctional club like Tottenham (a permanent fixture on Thursday evening television schedules)?
Brendan Rodgers clearly read the tea leaves correctly in the summer of 2012 when he chose to join Liverpool ahead of Spurs. Let’s hope that Mauricio Pochettino or David Moyes - surely the two most likely candidates (one having done well with a smaller club, the other being available on the cheap) - proves to be a better second choice than Andre Villa Boas.

And let’s hope that for once Daniel Levy makes the right call. Because if he doesn’t, sixth place finishes will quickly become the subject of dreams.