Cockles Warmed By New Tottenham...

If Tottenham are going to fail in their quest to finish in the top four, then it's best to fail with a vision based on youth than on a set of expensive new players, says Matt Stanger...

Last Updated: 16/01/14 at 08:40 Post Comment

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Tim Sherwood might not possess the managerial credentials Tottenham fans were hoping for following Andre Villas-Boas' departure, but the early evidence of his tenure suggests he brings a new cause to the club - and one worth celebrating.

For too long Spurs have been a moth to the flame in the race for the top four, consumed by the money and status of the Champions League only to be denied by the glass ceiling below fourth. The heavy spending in the summer highlighted a crippling focus on the short term that rendered Villas-Boas' start to the season unacceptable, but under Sherwood it might be possible to find solace in the development of an identity that affords greater focus on the club's youth system.

It must be said, of course, that qualifying for the Champions League still remains a distinct possibility after Sherwood's haul of 13 points in his first five matches. However, it is clear that the new manager is not merely looking at what he can achieve in the remaining 17 fixtures. His impressive start has quickly eased fears over his unexpected promotion, but it is Sherwood's long-term vision for the club that offers real encouragement to supporters left in limbo by two decades of chopping and changing.

While Nabil Bentaleb's selection ahead of Etienne Capoue against Crystal Palace raised a few eyebrows at White Hart Lane, Sherwood's faith in the youngster is something to be championed and points to a long-awaited and much-needed new direction. As interim manager, Sherwood expressed that he would only consider the position full-time if he was given assurances over a renewed focus on the club's youth policy and it appears he has the courage of his convictions.

"If something happened on a longer term with me it (the youth set-up) would be addressed," he said before his appointment on an 18-month contract. "The last thing we would want to do is stunt their growth because there are some top young players down there ready to step up.

"I don't want this job for five minutes. That's no interest to me. Are we going to move it forward or not?"

Bentaleb's promotion has been at the core of Sherwood's intentions and the 19-year-old has impressed in his four matches thus far - including a substitute appearance at Old Trafford and a first start in the FA Cup defeat to Arsenal. It is clear that he is a raw talent, but it seems he is ready to be moulded by his first-team experience, rather than broken. His inclusion has been seen by many to be an opportunistic ploy by Sherwood to boast his previous work as Spurs' technical co-ordinator, but that accusation has been vehemently denied by the manager.

"A lot of these new players I don't even know. I've had three days training with them. It's about the heat of the battle and knowing who you can trust, and the kid's ready to play," said Sherwood after handing Bentaleb his debut against Southampton.

"At Southampton, with the greatest of respect, their youngsters get a chance. When you're at a club like Tottenham spending £110m in the transfer window, it's difficult to get an opportunity. But I knew what I was going to get. He trains like every day is the last day in the world, listens and has a fantastic attitude."

It is perhaps rather strange that Sherwood has been so forceful in his opinions during his first month in charge, but having been employed by the club for five years he has been in the perfect position to observe the mistakes of previous managers and the boardroom regime. In recent seasons it has been claimed that the gap to Arsenal is closing in north London, but the Gunners' enduring focus on developing their own talent provides a stark contrast with Spurs' principal plan to draw up a new approach as soon as the current blueprint begins to fail.

Never has that been more evident than during a summer of enormous spending that confused ambition with transfer market splurging. Hindsight has revealed that the club would have been better sitting on the money gained by Gareth Bale's sale to Real Madrid to assess targets in greater detail, but some spectators are already pointing out gaps in the squad that need to be plugged in January. The irony has not been lost on Sherwood.

"We don't need any players in," he said. "We've got a few injuries, but that's the last thing we need: players."

As rumours circulate that Capoue, Nacer Chadli and Lewis Holtby could follow Jermain Defoe out of the exit door, it seems Sherwood will continue to place his faith in Bentaleb as well as several other youngsters pushing for a first-team promotion. Zeki Fryers was awarded his first Premier League start in the 3-0 win over Stoke while pacy midfielder Ryan Fredericks has also been involved in six of Sherwood's seven match-day squads.

The question now is whether supporters are prepared to show patience in the new manager's approach. It will be difficult to blood young players and achieve the instant success that is craved, but failing to secure fourth may not feel so catastrophic if among those who missed out are several of Spurs' own products. The end has justified the means for too long at White Hart Lane and suggestions that Villas-Boas' sacking was hastened by the manager ignoring the 'Tottenham Way' were met with justified derision.

However, should Sherwood be given time to implement his plans, the idea of a new identity presents fans something to unite behind, rather than crossing their fingers in the roll of the dice for fourth.

Matthew Stanger - follow him on Twitter. He's in London this weekend - ask him if he wants to meet up.

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