Mikey Burrows has urged Aston Villa to take their time over appointing Tim Sherwood’s successor, as they need a long-term manager.
So one of the most predictable managerial departures of the season has finally happened, and to me the only surprise is it has taken this long.
Tim Sherwood and Aston Villa was never a marriage set to last; it always seemed one of those relationships deliciously raunchy to begin with that so often fizzles quickly.
Like many failed romances both sides will feel the qualities that ignited that first attraction dissipated horribly. In fairness to Sherwood he clearly felt he was taking charge of one of English football’s great institutions, a Premier League ever present with an impressive stadium, decent fanbase and a rich American owner.
But Aston Villa these days are not the behemoth they purport to be. They haven’t behaved like a truly big club for some time, not since Martin O’Neill took them to sixth. O’Neill knew what was coming too; successive sales of Gareth Barry, James Milner and Ashley Young continually weakened a team which had threatened to break into the top four.
The rumour had often been that Randy Lerner was not impressed his expenditure under O’Neill had failed to deliver Champions League football – and budgets were reigned in accordingly under Gerard Houllier, Alex McLeish and then most notably Paul Lambert.
Lambert’s Villa was built around young British talents, many of whom simply weren’t ready for top-flight football, and they duly struggled. Ambitions and expectations of the fans were not being matched by those who ran the club.
Lambert’s ‘Lions’, as they were known, became stale, almost as much as the rank atmosphere around an increasingly sparse stadium.
Villa fans were bored by a team built to survive life without Christian Benteke that was trying to work out how to play with him. Sherwood didn’t do anything special when he replaced Lambert, he just picked some wide players and told them to cross the ball.
Just as he did at Spurs with Emmanuel Adebayor, Sherwood found a way to get the team’s main goalscorer firing, Benteke’s rejuvenation never more apparent than his demolition of Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
It would be Liverpool who came calling for Benteke in the summer, a transfer that triggered a remarkable turnaround from captain Fabian Delph. Reportedly told the big Belgian was staying, Delph rejected the overtures of Manchester City, only to find out days later it wasn’t the case and a quick phone call to the Etihad saw the deal resurrected.
Big clubs do not sell their best players, yet Villa saw Benteke and Delph leave within a week of each other, and with Ron Vlaar having already run down his contract, the spine of the team had disappeared.
What then transpired was a summer recruitment policy based almost entirely on cherry-picking talent from across the channel, with Sherwood professing his new French imports were the way forward.
In August he told reporters buying foreign talent was better value for money, saying: “I’ve looked at the English talent to see what’s out there. If it was better than the foreign talent I would have gone down that route, some of the foreign boys we have gone for over the English boys are better. They’ve played a lot of games at a very young age.”
Strange then only two months later the whispers were that Sherwood didn’t want many of his signings, that some were “third or fourth choices” and he had wanted Premier League experience all along.
How could we trust what Sherwood was saying anyway? This was a manager who told the assembled media new £7million signing from Barcelona Adama Traore was a “development project” and we shouldn’t expect to see him in the team anytime soon, then duly brought him off the bench for 20 minutes at Crystal Palace the very next day.
If Aston Villa were not the “big club” Sherwood was promised, he too was not the “progressive and forward-thinking” manager they had hoped for.
Full of confidence, oh so much confidence, but ultimately all talk and very little substance.
So what next? If you allow me to continue the slightly disturbing metaphor you’ve probably blocked from your mind from the start of this article, Sherwood will undoubtedly pull again. He’ll say just the right things to sweet talk an owner into another illicit and possibly mucky affair that will likely end in tears.
For Villa, they should take their time to decide what they want from a relationship, as they simply can’t afford to rush into the arms of another man who will ultimately hurt them in a few months.