Sherwood goes down memory lane
LONDON — Tim Sherwood is remembering the moment, almost 20 years ago, when he heard Bruce Rioch’s voice at the end of the phone and thought that his dream move to Arsenal was finally going through. Discussions had been going on for a while between the pair and Sherwood, who had won the Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers 12 months earlier, was waiting to be told to report to Arsenal’s training ground for a medical.
“We lived in Harpenden, in Hertfordshire, and it was summer time and I’d been talking to [Bruce],” Sherwood recalls. “The deal, for me, was done. We never spoke money, but it was Arsenal. I thought he was calling me to say what time to go to [Arsenal training ground] London Colney but he was ringing me to say he’d been sacked. They got rid of him and brought in some guy called Arsène Wenger. And he signed two players called Vieira and Petit, who no one had ever heard of. I was going: ‘Who are they?’”
Sherwood breaks into laughter as he finishes a story he is telling for good reason. Arsenal are Aston Villa’s opponents in the FA Cup final on Saturday and also the club that Sherwood grew up supporting, which is why there was such a frisson of excitement when Rioch showed an interest in signing him. “I’m an Arsenal fan as a kid, my Dad still goes to the Emirates every week, I love to see them do well,” Sherwood said many years later – and before he took over as Tottenham Hotspur’s manager. Arsenal fans, not surprisingly, lapped it up.
It is a subject that the Villa manager dances around with a twinkle in his eye. So was he really an Arsenal fan? “Nah, that’s a myth,” he says with a wry grin, before admitting that the Arsenal supporters at Wembley will enjoy reminding him of his true allegiances. “They will sing: ‘Tim Sherwood’s a Gooner’ for at least 30 minutes of the game,” the 46-year-old says, mimicking the song.
The reality is that the clues have been out there for a while. “I was from Boreham Wood, so you either supported Tottenham or Arsenal ... and I just supported football, can I say that?” Sherwood says, chuckling. “I went on [Sky’s] Soccer AM, they reckon I’ve got a tattoo of a cannon – I haven’t. I haven’t got any tattoos, but when I was at Tottenham there was all that [being said].
“So when I went on Soccer AM, Tim Lovejoy said: ‘Let’s have a look at this programme’. It was a Norwich programme. It said: ‘Favourite ground? Highbury. Favourite player: Liam Brady’... so he asked: ‘How are you going to answer this?’ So I replied: ‘the guy who worked in the commercial department at Norwich knew I was a Tottenham fan, so he changed all my answers’. So I got myself out of it.”
Sherwood has a knack of escaping from tight situations. Appointed as Villa manager in February, he took over a team that was 18th in the table and had won only two of their last 21 league games. Villa had scored just 12 league goals, at an average of fewer than one every two matches, confidence was on the floor and relegation beckoned. She rwood, by his own admission, was putting his neck on the line by taking the job.
It has been some turnaround. Villa have won five of their 12 league games under Sherwood — as many as Paul Lambert, his predecessor, had managed in the previous 25 matches — scored 19 goals, climbed clear of relegation trouble, reached their first FA Cup final in 15 years and produced some exhilarating attacking football, no more so than in the semi-final victory over Liverpool .
While Sherwood highlights the danger of allowing Arsenal to get into their rhythm at Wembley, he has no intention of changing the tactics that, with the exception of last weekend’s freakish 6-1 defeat at Southampton, have served Villa so well so far. “We’ve got respect for Arsenal, we know Sánchez is an extraordinary talent, Cazorla, Giroud can score goals –– they’ve got talent all over the field, but so have we, we’ve got players who can hurt them,” he says. “There’s no point shackling ours and keep taking it on the chin until you get knocked out. I don’t think our fans want to go there and watch that, so let’s go toe-to-toe and see what happens.”
Listening to Sherwood talk with such passion and ambition at Villa’s training ground, it is easy to see why Kenny Dalgish made him captain of that Blackburn team that won the league in 1995. Sherwood is a born winner, which helps to explain why he can be so animated on the touchline at times and, when it comes to his mood at the end of matches, sound cock-a-hoop if Villa win and absolutely devastated if they lose.
“You can play a five-a-side out there [on the training pitches] and they all want to win. But it’s how much you want to win; there’s a different level of winning. I wanted to kill people to win,” Sherwood says. “I used to cry when I was a kid when I couldn’t win, now I cry to myself when we don’t win. It hurts me. But I also cry when we win. You talk about emotion, it means so much and it’s got to mean that much to them – I want it to but unfortunately we’re all different; we can’t all be the same.
“Players are different now. They’ve changed. We didn’t have to open a door, we took it off the hinges because we were headbutting walls: ‘ Come on, get in there’. But there’s been an influx of foreign players and the type of player now is different. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to win any less. They still care, but I want them to care more than anything in the world to win because there are far too many losers in the game.”
Any players falling into that category at Villa Park will be told to pack their bags during a summer when Sherwood is looking to put his stamp on the squad. He has already given Randy Lerner, the Villa owner, a list of his targets. “We have to move out the losers,” Sherwood says. “Not to be disrespectful – I’m not saying that everyone who leaves here is a loser — but the ones we bring in have to be ones who want to achieve and move upwards. This cannot become a graveyard for footballers who want a last pay day. This has to be the birthplace of the new generation, and that’s what I’m trying to achieve here.”
Fabian Delph, whom Sherwood made captain, epitomises the qualities that the manager is looking for in his players. “He leads by example, he drives the team forward, and there’s a lot more to Fabian’s game than just someone who flies around and gets the odd red card, which is what some people have said to me about him. He’s actually a good technician. Whenever I’ve had conversations with Roy Hodgson, I think he’s probably one of the top three on his teamsheet.”
Sherwood admits he has been so preoccupied with keeping Villa up that he has not had a chance to think much about leading the club out at Wembley, but he sounds genuine when he talks about it being a huge honour.
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says striker Danny Welbeck is set to miss the FA Cup final against Aston Villa on Saturday.
Wenger confirmed Welbeck’s knee problem is likely to rule him out at the weekend and could put a question mark over whether the striker will be fit for England’s upcoming friendly against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin and the Euro 2016 qualifier away to Slovenia.
Asked if he thought the 24-year-old former Manchester United player could be fit for the final, Wenger said: “Welbeck will be short because he has not practised yet.”
There was better news for Wenger about club captain Mikel Arteta, who may return to Arsenal’s Cup final squad following calf and then ankle problems that have sidelined him since November.
“Arteta is a possibility, because he is back in full training,” Wenger added, with French defender Mathieu Debuchy another with a chance to be involved after a hamstring injury. — AFP MADRID — Real Madrid have sacked coach Carlo Ancelotti (pictured) after the world’s richest club by income failed to win major silverware this season and, according to local media, Napoli’s Rafa Benitez is the favourite to succeed him.
“The board of directors have decided this evening to relieve Carlo Ancelotti of his duties,” president Florentino Perez told a news conference on Monday.
“It was a very difficult decision ... but we have not come to Real Madrid to take easy decisions but to take decisions that we believe are the best for an institution that is a reference point around the world,” added the construction magnate.
“The demands are huge and we believe it is the right moment to give fresh impetus that will allow us to win more titles and reach our optimum competitive level in a new phase.”
The club will announce a successor next week, Perez said, and local media say former Liverpool and Chelsea boss Benitez, who once had a stint as a Real youth team coach, is the frontrunner to replace Ancelotti.others to have been linked with the job are German Juergen Klopp, who has quit Borussia Dortmund, and former Real player Michel who has had spells running the B team at the Bernabeu and clubs including Getafe and Sevilla.italian Ancelotti, who had a three-year contract that was due to run until the end of next season, led the club to a record-extending 10th European crown and a King’s Cup triumph in his first term in charge in 2013-14.
However, this term they were eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals by Juventus while Barcelona won their fifth La Liga title in seven years. Real also lost to Atletico Madrid in the King’s Cup last 16 in January.real won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup but Ancelotti’s failure to win any of the three trophies that make up the traditional treble was deemed unacceptable.
After Real announced his sacking, Ancelotti said on his Twitter feed: “I leave with the memory of two fantastic years... thank you to the club, the fans and my players.”
Aston Villa manager tim sherwood.