In a conversation surrounding the deployment of Tim Sherwood along with coaches Les Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey as short-term managers of the club after the departure of Andre Villas-Boas today, Bryan Ashlock and I offered up differing views about whether or not the Portuguese's sacking before the end of the season can possibly be justified if an interim hire who would depart at around the same time could not deliver better results. We decided to lay out the gist of this debate to you below to keep the debate on this issue ticking over.
Bryan: Look, I understand why the club fired Andre Villas-Boas. I wasn't exactly pleased about any of the results either, but I question the wisdom of the timing of the firing.
What we know right now is that Tim Sherwood will be taking over in the interim while Spurs evaluate whether or not they can attract a good replacement. Many seem to hold the belief that Sherwood might hold the job for the remainder of the season. If that is the case, then I seriously question AVB's dismissal.
To me, you fire a manager to affect a change. Spurs weren't playing well enough under AVB, so you bring in a new manager to lift the team and improve results. However, it seems to me, that by sticking with an interim, like Sherwood, the club is basically writing this season off as a lost cause. That is not something that I can abide.
It really comes down to what the expectations for Sherwood are. Do we expect him to win a trophy and boost us back to fourth? If so, that seems a little naive on our part. No, to me, the expectation must be that Sherwood is merely a competent hand to steer the ship until the end of the season when a different manager can be brought in. Levy and Co. will not expect him to finish fourth, they will merely hope that he can produce some good results and get the players playing together. If that's all you want, then what is the benefit of sacking AVB?
MCofA's numbers say we're around 1-in-6 to finish in the top four. That's not exactly encouraging, but if you recall, as late as Week 28 of last season, his number said that Arsenal had a 25% chance of finishing top 4 and Spurs at 85%. We know how that worked out. That's not a shot at him or his numbers and I'm sorry if it comes out that way. All I mean is that, there's still a chance that these things can happen. Last year, with 10 matches left there was only a 15% chance we finished outside the top 5 and we somehow managed it. There's a few reasons, to me, to think that AVB and Spurs might have been able to go on a run at the end of the season and force themselves into the top four.
If you believe that Sherwood is just a place holder, but based on results he could work his way into getting the job full-time, then what is the logic for denying AVB that very same opportunity. If the firing is purely results based, and not based on any other behind the scenes things that we as members of the public don't know of, how can you deny AVB the opportunity to turn things around and win back his job, if you're affording Sherwood that same luxury.
Ed: To encapsulate it in a single sentence, my point of view is that only trouble can come of allowing a club to be led into battle each week by a permanent (and I need to stress that word 'permanent', because it's important to the rest of my argument) manager who the board fundamentally do not have faith in as a long-term marshal of the team.
In terminating Andre Villas-Boas' contract with Tottenham today, Daniel Levy confirmed beyond doubt that rumours of the club hierarchy's loss of belief in his abilities which have been swirling in the press recently were true. Once that breaking point had been reached, once the sense of shared objectives and mutual trust had broken down, the purpose of keeping our erstwhile manager at the club expired.
For what kind of job could AVB reasonably have been expected to do knowing that his neck was slowly and inexorably lowering onto the block, ready to be lopped off come mid-May? Bryan talked of the mathematic possibility of Villas-Boas taking Spurs on a neat run as the season closed out, but to look at it from the human point of view, what would the chances of that happening be if AVB felt from today onwards that Tottenham was no longer 'his' project, that his replacement was already being sounded out by a board indifferent to the possibility that these actions might further undermine and humiliate him?
Moreover, what would such a situation do for the morale of players, coming as they are off the back of such a scarring home defeat as our 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool? If any notion filtered down that AVB was simply winding down his contract with Spurs, what cause would even his greatest advocates in the squad have had to play for him? Upkeeping the fallacious pretence that AVB was still in it for the long-haul could only have bred confusion, jadedness and further stagnation amongst an already rudderless squad.
After all, wasn't this the exact problem that most identify as having led to the teutonic collapse Spurs suffered under Harry Redknapp in 2011? The manager's head was turned away from the job, the players came to understand that he was gone, and the collective spirit of commonality and purpose caved in.
This analogy isn't flawless- perhaps you might say Redknapp's head was turned by the promise of a better job, whereas AVB might have worked harder knowing that he'd have to deliver at least something to secure a future one. But even that creates its own sub-problem, as AVB would have been almost certainly likely to go completely off-message with our objectives this season in order to secure a trophy to his name, as many accused Rafa Benitez of doing through his rotation policy with Chelsea. Winning the Europa League is nice thing in itself perhaps, but certainly not what the board would be hoping for this season if it comes at the expense of a higher-tier League finish- but with AVB already a goner, what would he care? More disconnection of objectives, more pulling in different directions, more misadventure coming from letting the exiled son keep the keys to the family car.
At least with Sherwood temporarily at the helm, the state of play is open, transparent and clearly-communicated. Our interim coach is, for now, merely a placeholder for a longer-term solution. The reason why he is afforded the luxury of time and patience that AVB isn't is that there's no lying or subterfuge surrounding his position. His status and his objectives will be much more clear. The coach knows where he stands, the squad knows where he stands, and everyone can proceed onwards with the season secure in that knowledge.
Clarity and and honesty with a short-term manager, rather than the charade of sticking by a man that everyone knows is only a fixed period of time away from a knife in the back, can only be healthy for a side torn asunder by turbulent events over the course of the season so far.
- Michael Laudrup, Guus Hiddink out of the running for Tottenham job
- Tottenham Hotspur manager shortlist: Frank de Boer
- The stats behind the sacking: Spurs shot conversion, points and through balls
- Waving goodbye to Andre Villas-Boas, who was never the best man for the job
- Tim Sherwood is interim boss, could stay on past West Ham game