LONDON: Tottenham take to the pitch against West Ham in the League Cup tonight under their third manager in 18 months. For a club with massive funds and ambitions this is a record of instability which undermines their dream of being Champions League contenders.
Harry Redknapp was sacked in the summer of 2012 after flirting with the possibility of the England job; Andre Villas-Boas was sacked on Monday morning after Liverpool piled a 5-0 home humiliation on the earlier embarrassments inflicted by Manchester City (6-0) and modest West Ham (3-0).
Youth coaching supremo Tim Sherwood stepped up as interim manager with Steffen Freund and Tony Parks staying on from AVB’s coaching staff to assist him. If Sherwood starts well – Spurs go to Southampton on Sunday then host West Bromwich and Stoke in Christmas holiday week – he could be in place for the rest of the season.
Otherwise Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will come under increasing criticism for his policy on managers. Villas-Boas has been sacked at a time when likely candidates such as Jurgen Klinmann, Cesare Prandelli and Fabio Capello are planning for World Cup campaigns next summer.
The only ‘free’ candidate is old Tottenham hero Glenn Hoddle but who has been out of management since 2006.
Villas-Boas has paid the penalty for Tottenham failing to make better, instant use of the £86m Gareth Bale fee. In any case, he and Italian sports director Franco Baldini did not see eye-to-eye on all the new signings. But that was the structure wanted by Levy who runs the clubs in behalf of the offshore investment group ENIC.
That said, it was asking a huge amount of Villas-Boas to construct a consistent winning unit out of so many new men (Paulinho, Christian Eriksen, Nacer Chadli, Vlad Chiriches, Roberto Soldado and Eric Lamela) in so short a time.
It was not as if Spurs did not have a talented squad already and the sight of so many new men must have been dispiriting to the likes of Lewis Holtby – who has responded well when offered the chance to put his energy to use out on the pitch.
He had started well. Tottenham finished fifth, just outside the Champions League slots last season, have cruised into the knockout stage of the Europa League and Villas-Boas has a better win percentage than any other Spurs manager in the two decades of the Premier League.
He did not help himself. The 36-year-old’s inexperience was exposed in badly misguided criticism of the fans for a lack of support, by insisting on a high defensive line with unsuited players, by clashing with his medical staff over the Hugo Lloris concussion incident, and by demonstrating a penchant for blaming everyone else for mistakes along the way.
The ultimate irony was that Spurs were undermined on Sunday by Luis Suarez, whom Liverpool had insisted on keeping against his wish for a move to Arsenal. Spurs, of course, preferred the money rather than holding Bale to his own contract.