Football people on TV: Tim Sherwood

Date published: Friday 26th February 2016 2:19

This week John Nicholson is hypnotised by the original PFM, Tim Sherwood. He’s a man who is happy to ask himself rhetorical questions in the third person.


Fashion police
Famously sported that bloody gilet – a garment more associated with Chelsea tractor drivers and yummy mummys. Timmy might be a dummy but he’s not a yummy mummy. Seemed blissfully unaware of any fashion or cultural implication in the wearing of it and rightly tired of answering questions about the thing. His clothes are usually of the expensive plain, very male variety. Does occasionally favour a fashionably tailored collar. Can’t seem to tie a decent knot, so ties, when worn, look ill-fitting and askew, in the manner of a rebellious schoolboy. Wardrobe is full of tighty-tight cardigans and v-necks in black and grey. Pants are close-fitting.

With eyes that look twice the age of the rest of him, he always has a dishevelled, bleary look about him, as though he has recently emerged from sleeping in a skip, or possibly has just wrestled a honey badger.


Lingo bingo
If a 1975 orange Ford Capri could talk, it would surely have Tim’s voice. Conventions on verbs and tenses are largely ignored, especially when put on the spot in an interview. ‘Wasn’t’ is often ‘weren’t’ and ‘that’ becomes ‘what’ – as in “It weren’t him what done that”. Loves a “we was gettin’ done” or “nah, not for me” and a “one hundred per cent”. Happy to ask and answer a rhetorical in the third person “Is that the sort of thing Tim Sherwood wants to see? No.”

Trips over his expressions, sometimes. Feathers are “rustled” instead of ruffled. Gets himself in knots with twisted expressions such as “When you’re hot you’re hot, when you’re cold, you’re not hot.” That’s 100 percent right, Tim.

Would be easy to paint him as a cockney but hails from Borehamwood, a place that sounds more like classic Little Englander territory. More likely than most to shout ‘stop mincing around and get the fackin’ motor, you muppet!’


Hits and misses
Getting two major jobs in the Premier League is an impressive thing to be able to put on your CV. The memory of him not doing very well at either of them will fade with time and, no doubt, he’ll get another go somewhere, at some point. All the leapin’, the punchin’, the salutin’, are quintessential Timbotic hits.

See, the thing about Tim is this; like it or not, he’s a character and he has charisma. He wouldn’t have got near either of those jobs without being able to talk a good game. Watching recordings of his press conferences often reveals this quality. He’s remarkably quick-witted and looks at his questioners with an unwavering stare of his blue as robin’s eggs, almond-shaped, eyes. Quick with a sneer and scowl, especially in defeat. Equally quick with a joke and a loud laugh, especially in victory. Generally, he has an incredibly expressive face, with pleading eyebrows, little twitches of one eye or a quick down-turn of the mouth adding nuance and implication to his words. When at Spurs, after losing 4-0 to Chelsea, he looked genuinely upset and spoke from the heart. It’s this quality which people like about him. And even if you don’t like him, he seems genuine and that’s a more rare quality than it ought to be.

A few weeks ago he was called upon to do the standing in front of a big TV thing on Sky. He looked awkward having to analyse action, detail didn’t seem to be his strong point, though, obviously bluffed his way through it rather well. Sometimes, I wonder if all the self-confidence is actually just bravado, covering up massive insecurities.


Big club bias
Only in the sense that he feels like he’s a top top talent who deserves a chance at a top top club. Once said, “you can either play for a top club, or you can’t,” and that just about says it all.


Loved or loathed
Well, this is very interesting. In this week’s Twitter poll to decide who I was going to write about, Sherwood topped it with well over 60% of the vote. That’s testament to the magnetic personality of the Sherwoodyness. People are interested in him. Obviously, a lot cast abuse his way, some feeling he has that nasty look of the classic school bully. Others thought that he was hopelessly out of date as a coach and ‘a puffed up idiot.’ But many are fascinated by him and some feel he’s not the villain he’s often made out to be. It’s fair to say there are few, who believe he’s proved himself as being especially talented in the managerial gilet, but plenty who find him funny and enjoy his voice on the pundit sofa. I’d be in that camp. He seems like he’s playing a character in a comedy-drama, to me. A cheaply made cliche ridden, ITV comedy drama, obviously, and one which you only watch because you’re too drunk to turn it over. But all the same, there’s something about the The Sherwood that keeps you watching.

To be good on TV, you need to have a bit of something about you, to project through the lens. Even if you’re talking rubbish, if you’re a unique voice, you bring something to the football TV gig that your milky nobodies don’t. This is why the unique Merse gets work, I reckon. You neek? What’s a neek, Jeff? This doesn’t mean we should consider such people as football sages, of course, but more as entertainers. Too many viewers call people who they don’t like rubbish, when really, they just disagree with them, and fail to realise that actually we need villains, every much as we need heroes.

I find Sherwood fascinating and tremendously entertaining. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but always certain and, in many ways, that’s all you need to pundit your way through a TV programme. Crucially though, he has just enough self-awareness to look ever so slightly embarrassed at the more silly stuff that he comes out with and that rescues him from being utterly insufferable.

However, when in the studio with an especially fawning presenter acolyte, he has got a big dose of unbearably self-satisfied in his locker and, of course, can legsqueezergeezeritsjustbanterinnit for England. The subject of a thousand Vines, this one rather brilliantly sums him up.


Proper Football Man
As you probably know, I coined the PFM term two years ago, in honour of Sherwood being pumped by Jamie Redknapp for the Spurs job on the basis that he was a proper football man.

What Tim is, is what a PFM is. He is the template and a perpetuator of most of the main myths and legends they all hold so dear.

A big six footer who started out at Watford and worked his way up to winning a title at Blackburn, had a good engine on him, clattered around midfield, not afraid to put the boot in, shouted a lot, not afraid to fall out with people, and played under Kenny. All very PFM, that. As is playing for seven years for an unfashionable club, winning the title, but only getting three full caps for England. Never quite making it big and being overlooked in favour of the more fashionable or brown-nosey, is crucial to every proper football man’s bitter sense paranoia that he’s been done down in the land of his birth. Whatever it is, foreigners don’t get it. Isn’t that right, Motty? Ha ha, well a gilet sounds foreign to me, Mark. It’s not a sheepskin coat, is it? Goodness me, no.

He paints from the full rainbow-hued PFM palette. Happy to sit with wide apart legs on any sofa, preferably these days on the middle-east telly channels, home of all PFMs at some point. Happy to be all about character, passion and guts, rather than tactics. Happy to still be called a ‘good young English manager’ by other PFMs, despite being 47. Happy to be chippy about foreigners taking jobs Brits should have, happy to sell failure, as though it is success. Happy to only use the statistics which prove what a good job you did, but decry the laptop gurus at all other times. They ain’t never played the game ‘ave they? And is now, in an attempt to decommission any critic, happy to push the line that if you’ve not managed you can’t understand what it’s like to be manager. Also happy to blame the owner, chairman or any board of faceless football bureaucrats who don’t know the game, for them things that went wrong.

Basically, as every PFM knows, he’s right and everyone else is wrong and if you can’t see that, then you’re part of them what are ruining football. Isn’t that right, Andy? If only he was called Sherwoodici, he’d get the respect he deserves, wouldn’t he, Deano? Deano? Oh, he’s passed out. Quick, take his pants off and get the marker pens and cut-throat razor, Dion.

There are question marks over being called Tim, of course. Tim’s are not alpha males, Timothy’s even less so. Reputedly fell out with Glenn Hoddle; then again, who amongst us hasn’t, one way or another?

As he already has the apres skip kip look about him, a night out in Dubai drinking Reidy’s new fermented desert gerbil milk and camel shampoo lager, should offer no fears and he looks like he has that cruel streak that all PFMs need in order to derive pleasure from making a camel sit on TC, dress him up as sheik, throw him over an oasis and cause an international incident at 4.27am at the Camel Toe nightclub with Miss Sleeveless Jacket Wearer (quilted & padded) of the Year 1985.

Leave it out, Sandy, we was just ‘avin a bit of fun. It’s like a foreign country ‘ere, innit.


Beyond the lighted stage
The Sherwood cultural hinterland is best summed up by this extract from The Guardian’s Small Talk in 2008.

What was the last book you read?
I don’t read books. I read the Daily Express and The Star.

Not the Guardian?
Too much writing in it.

Cheese or chocolate?
[Increasingly disinterested] Cheese.

Any kind of cheese?
Only cheddar. I don’t get involved in the rest of that muck.

A mature cheddar?
No. Mild.

Perfect muck.


John Nicholson

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