Ed Woodward gets plenty of criticism (and some of it richly deserved), but Nick Miller describes a numbers man pushed into the Old Trafford limelight. It's not easy...
It's been a long time in the making, that Southampton Philosophy. And in one summer, it's all been ripped asunder. Has it been replaced by another or the same old?
You may recall that a few years ago Arsenal's sports psychologist carried out a number of tests to determine their players' sense of self-worth and confidence. Nicklas Bendtner's results very nearly blew up the meter, with the taxi-bothering Dane scoring an impressive, Spinal Tap-esque ten out of nine on the 'self-perceived competence' test.
This of course attracted much derision because of the wild disparity between the truth in Nicky B's head and the truth as laid out for us by the available evidence. Bendtner is a perfectly competent top division striker and nothing more than that, and unless either he or Arsenal were trying to prank us all with this ten out of nine guff, the level of delusion was remarkable.
Bendtner's adventures on the psychologist's couch spring to mind whenever Tim Sherwood appears on TV. Not that Sherwood is in the same narcissistic league as Bendtner, but his level of regard for his own abilities with little supporting evidence certainly whiffs of the Arsenal man. In Bendtner's case, we at least had some evidence to disprove his words, but for Sherwood we have almost none, thus leaving a very confusing situation.
From the moment Sherwood was installed at Tottenham, as such a transparent interim coach that he might as well have grown a little goatee, slapped on a few pounds and had 'YNWA' tattooed on his chest, he was very vocally certain that he deserved the job for years to come. Sherwood spoke of a ten-year contract and not being interested if he was just a stop-gap, seemingly unaware that the rest of the world didn't know how brilliant he was at this management caboodle. And the main reason for that is we didn't know - and we didn't know because he hadn't done it before.
The level of confidence Sherwood has in himself is absolutely remarkable, given his lack of any record. In some respects this is admirable and sensible - after all, who is going to think you're any good if you don't think you're any good? The trouble is, Sherwood seems blissfully unaware that you have to actually prove you're a good manager by, like, y'know, winning some games and so forth, rather than simply telling everyone that you're a good manager and hoping they'll be taken in by your level of certainty.
This is summed up by what his supporters say when defending him. Phrases like 'he's full of passion' and 'he's a football man' (a collection of words that perhaps tops the list of 'Things That Mean Nothing But Are Intended To Explain Everything') and - a favourite of his pal Jamie this one - 'he's not a laptop manager' are usually littered throughout any testimonials. Empty, well-meaning statements all, because they're basically speaking in theory and/or innocent, blind hope.
Still, now he has been given the chance to prove he has the goods, Sherwood seems to be caught between two stools. At the start of his tenure at Spurs, he appeared keen to emphasise this no-nonsense, passionate football man persona, perhaps acutely aware that his best chance of initial success was by merely not being Andre Villas-Boas, and thus the key was to simplify everything to a level that even Emmanuel Adebayor could understand. Even his choice of attire, which makes him look like he was covered in glue then fired through the Spurs shop in a cannon, assorted bits of Armour kit sticking to him on the way (as an aside, when did the humble body-warmer become a 'gilet'? We missed that particular sartorial meeting), seems to scream 'I AM A FOOTBALL MAN AND I'M WEARING FOOTBALL CLOTHES'.
However, either because of a desire to prove himself as not just a Football Man but a Football Manager, or to put one in the eye of some of the snobs who think passion just ain't enough, Sherwood has strayed from the 4-4-2 with a big man/little man up top approach, and started dicking around with all sorts of 'tactics'. This reached a nadir in the defeat to Chelsea, a game in which admittedly his plan was not entirely to blame for the ensuing shambles, but he did play Kyle Walker on the right wing, presumably as a ruse to deal with Eden Hazard, only for the wily old fox Jose to simply push Hazard to the other side of the pitch. Cunning. With Walker further forward, Kyle Naughton was deployed behind him, Sherwood casting aside the only real advantage of having both these Kyle right-backs in the same squad - specifically that the presence of the pair of them means you only usually have to play one.
Sherwood might actually be a good manager. We don't really know. We might never know because a) he's currently installed in the illogical tin shithouse that is Tottenham, where sense goes to die, and b) he's not especially likely to have a job for much longer, with Louis van Gaal not so much waiting but looming in the wings, presumably with one hand on his belt buckle.
His record since taking over is perfectly respectable - it's a little worse than Villas-Boas's, but given he took over a squad halfway through a season whose confidence was shot, and filled with new players that the previous guy hadn't really gelled together terribly well, that's not something to be too ashamed of. But still, half a respectable season with someone else's players is nothing to judge a manager's ability on, either good or bad.
Sherwood may occasionally look and sound like a buffoon, but it's difficult not to feel some sympathy for him. He may be denied the chance to prove to the world what he knows in his head for sure.
Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter