PREMIER LEAGUE BETTING
I’m told that the courses run by the League Managers Association include an unofficial part where they talk about an “exit strategy”.
This, in an occupation that’s about as insecure as you can get, covers the idea of how to leave a job when it is going well so that your reputation stays intact.
You can see the idea of it. There’s many a boss who has been hailed as the next great coach of the future as he’s helped a smaller club punch way above its weight, only to find six months later that he’s got his P45 because he just didn’t have enough good players to keep it going. The stock of a football manager goes up and down quicker than share prices on Black Monday.
All of which brings us to Tim Sherwood. If anybody could have done with an exit strategy last summer it was the boss of Aston Villa. Instead he finds himself in charge of a club who are now odds-on at 2.00 for relegation.
Now let’s make it clear that I like Sherwood, and I think he’s a good coach. I don’t think he got the credit he deserved for doing a great job at Spurs despite a chairman pulling the rug from under him, and I’m convinced that Aston Villa would already be in the Championship but for hisinspired management after taking over from Paul Lambert in January.
But watching the way his new Villa side capitulated at Liverpool on Saturday, you couldn’t help but feel he’s been given an impossible job this time. The 3-2 defeat made it just four points from seven matches.
It’s only four short months since he was leading his side out at Wembley in an FA Cup final. Look down the team list, and five of that side have left the club. What’s more, they were arguably the best five.
Shay Given, Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverley and Christian Benteke made up the spine of the team which won a relegation fight. But they have all gone to pastures new, and the team that is left doesn’t yet have a new spine.
Villa’s recruitment policy has been to buy mostly younger players, looking for value in Europe and particularly in France. Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott might just form a decent partnership at the back, but at the moment the rest of the new boys are pretty much untried and are going through the process of learning about life in the Premier League.
At the moment there’s a soft mentality to some of them. He last thing Sherwood told them before they left the dressing room was to keep it tight for 20 minutes to spread some anxiety around Anfield. Instead they stood off and gave James Milner yards of space to score after just 65 seconds.
When Sherwood walked in last season he had players to work with. Does he have the raw materials this time? You hope so, but at the moment you can’t be sure. Fair play to him for not following LMA advice and finding an “exit strategy” when his stock was high in the summer. But he’s got his work cut out to make sure Villa don’t end up making their own exit – from the Premier League.