With Roberto Di Matteo sacked, Aston Villa are — in what seems to be approaching a permanent situation — once more looking for a new manager. And naturally, this has prompted supporters to go through their short list of desired replacements: Guys like Steve Bruce and David Wagner, believed to be leading candidates for the job, have gotten a lot of run through the Villa social spheres.
Oh yeah, and there’s the people who want Tim Sherwood back.
Ask any Villa fan what their overarching memory of Sherwood is, and you’ll find two groups. One will remember the close to the 2014-15 season, when he replaced Paul Lambert, led Villa to the FA Cup Final and did all of it while playing attractive, fun football. The other will remember the start to the 2015-16 season, when Villa opened up to a 1-1-8 start en route to a humiliating relegation.
So let’s dive into that a little better.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but I’ll always be grateful to Sherwood for what he did to the club in spring 2015. He was, at that point in time, the perfect appointment. Villa were playing dire football (despite having that Christian Benteke guy) and had just slipped into the bottom three after a six-pointer loss at Hull City.
What Aston Villa needed in that time was a stopgap, someone who could come in, motivate the squad and get the best out of it in the short-term.
And that’s what Sherwood did. He played a 4-3-3 system that was perfectly suited to Christian Benteke, Tom Cleverley and Fabian Delph’s styles of football, and it worked well enough against a combination of other bad teams and teams that, quite frankly, were counting down the days until their holidays began in May.
There’s one minor issue with just remembering that moment, though: There’s more to management than getting a side to play well in a three-month spurt.
I always wanted to see what Sherwood could’ve done with the 2014-15 Villa squad over the course of an entire season. Between the way he re-energized Benteke, brought Jack Grealish into the fold and got the best out of Cleverley, Sherwood put a Villa side out there that, FA Cup included, won seven of its final 14 matches.
But unfortunately, he’d never have the chance to pull that through. Cleverley was the first to go, off to Everton, then Benteke and Delph followed him out the door.
What it meant, though, is that Sherwood had a lot of money to spend. And boy, did he do that poorly.
In his 10-match spurt to start the 2015-16 season, Sherwood never really integrated Jordan Ayew (remember how everyone complained we bought the wrong brother?), didn’t give Jordan Veretout much of a chance and broke up one of the things that was still working about Villa: Ciaran Clark and Jores Okore. He replaced them with Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards.
To be honest, that might be the worst personnel decision in years — and that’s saying something when you’re talking about Villa.
And at the end of the day, the thing that doomed Sherwood wasn’t that the team was terrible — it really wasn’t early in the year — but that he kept showing an inability to adjust tactically, an inability that led to Villa dropping points when they easily could have drawn or won. Remember the Palace loss, Sunderland draw and, worst of all, the Leicester loss last year?
They were all situations where a good manager would have been able to see out a point or three, yet Sherwood’s Villa teams couldn’t see it through.
Doesn’t that sound familiar?
It’s the biggest reasons why calls to bring Sherwood back are just odd. Yes, he’s my favorite personality to have managed the club and I get having a fondness for his start at Villa — hell, I do too, those were the best times at the club in this decade. But he was sacked for displaying many of the same flaws Di Matteo did in his time at Villa: an inability to properly spend money to assemble the right squad and an inability to see out results.
So let’s leave that Sherwood thought in the past. It was fun for a bit and terrible for a bit — kind of like that ex of yours… you know the one — but it’s not something we need moving forward. Please. Let’s move on, to whoever the next guy ends up being.