Aston Villa are, by most objective standards, in a bit of a hole. Daniel Storey covered the exact nature of this hole last week, the club haemorrhaging players and hope in equal measures, which was admittedly before the purchases of Jordan Ayew and the absolutely delighted-looking Jose Angel Crespo were announced.
After the interminable sadness of last season, a campaign that saw them flirt with relegation then have their hopes of something brighter dashed by way of a thorough humping in the FA Cup final, they have lost the core of their team and replaced them with players about whom people more knowledgable than Profile365 have basically said “Hmmmm, yeah, not sure about that…” In short, Villa were rubbish last term and, on paper at least, are now worse.
There is a speck of light in the murky darkness, though. A tiny hint of optimism. A pinprick of something more cheerful, to raise the spirits of a glum fanbase, someone who gives the impression that things aren’t that awful after all. And that pinprick is Tim Sherwood.
At the time of writing, it seems that Villa, with a Christian Benteke-shaped hole in their attack, are on the verge of signing both Emmanuel Adebayor and Dimitar Berbatov to take the responsibility of scoring goals, something that even with the big Belgian Villa conspicuously failed to do a great deal last season.
Of course, this potential partnership has the capacity to go quite sensationally south, pairing an occasionally moody and temperamental Adebayor who is capable of not so much going completely missing in games, as going completely missing in entire seasons, with an occasionally moody and temperamental Berbatov, who combines cartoon pieces of skill and touches of the ball that make people want to touch their ow (Enough of that, family website etc – Ed), with the sense that he’d rather be kicking back somewhere with a hookah pipe and a beanbag.
And yet if the good versions of both turn up, then this could be a sight to see. We all know about Adebayor’s form when he’s got a point to prove/contract to earn, and indeed with the help of Sherwood’s admittedly basic but undeniably effective psychology, which apparently extends to telling the big man he’s brilliant, before standing back and watching the goals flow. And Berbatov, 34 but still capable of stuff that will make you pound the table and howl like a cartoon dog…well, we all know what he can do, too. Imagine if Sherwood’s peculiar talent of basically being a ‘striker whisperer’ (see also: Benteke) works on him, too. Woof indeed.
Still, to get this pair in for what could turn out to be a relegation scrap is a bold move, to say the least, and not one that you might usually associate with Sherwood’s usual no-nonsense stylings. Timbo has spoken in the past about players having fight and character and all that stuff that you’d expect from a man of his mindset, stuff that is not exactly the first thing that springs to mind when this pair are involved.
But it seems to be a counter-attacking move, taking the theory espoused by cricketers in something of a bind, who will come out swinging and smash the ball to all parts in order to get themselves back into form/the game. Villa last season were – particularly before Sherwood arrived – a dreary joy-vacuum of a team, a side devoid of happiness who wandered around the place like an old chap in the park who can’t find his faithful dog. Sherwood seems to be trying to change all that.
These signings are gambles, but gambles based on the purest optimism of what it could be like if they’re both really good. He’s a dreamer, is Tim, a man who sees a glass not half-empty, not even half-full, but one that has the potential to hold even more delicious milk. These transfers are the embodiment of that attitude.
You would think that the time these two spend on the pitch together will be rather minimal, with other options like Ayew and Gabriel Agbonlahor (who a few days ago was standing in Villa’s attacking third looking slightly bemused, like Buster Keaton standing in the middle of that house as it fell down around him) in the mix too. But imagine what beauty could unfold before us if they do play together. They could be utterly shambolic as well, but Tim’s only seeing the upside.
Perhaps it’s an extension of his own unshakable belief in his own managerial ability, that saw him establish himself as a top-notch manager in his mind without the pen-pushing formality of doing so in the real world. Sherwood’s ability to look you straight in the eye and tell you he’s an excellent manager and should be treated as such now extends to transfers. In some situations, self-confidence and optimism are basically the same thing, and it’s part of the reason he’s not only a better manager than most of us thought, but one of the more fascinating characters in football today.
The signings of Adebayor and Berbatov could be absolutely horrible, but they could be absolutely brilliant. Gawd bless Sherwood for thinking it’ll be the latter.