Sher­wood goes down mem­ory lane

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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.”

— Reuters

As­ton Villa manager tim sher­wood.

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