Tim Sherwood talks Harry Kane, Sir Alex and the referee he owes!

Sherwood unleashed! Tim talks kick-starting Adebayor, Kane’s Spurs future, the ref he owes from Blackburn’s league win, his Aston Villa axe… and why Lionel Messi is NOT a natural scorer!

  • Tim Sherwood delved into the backstory of his career as a player and manager
  • During his playing career, Sherwood helped Blackburn win Premier League title
  • As manager, he gave Harry Kane his full debut as a Tottenham player in 2014 
  • Sherwood spoke to former Blackburn team-mate and Sportsmail’s Chris Sutton 

You will never find any splinters in Tim Sherwood’s backside, because this is not a man for sitting on the fence.

And that is in spite of Sir Alex Ferguson’s advice to him about choosing his words carefully after becoming Tottenham boss in 2013.

‘I spoke to him,’ Sherwood tells Chris Sutton, his former Norwich and Blackburn team-mate.

Tim Sherwood discussed his career as player and boss in a WhatsApp call with Chris Sutton

‘He told me, ‘You play two games a week as a manager — one is the press conference and the other is a football match. Sometimes it’s just as important to win the conference as it is the match’.

‘He was right. But I didn’t grasp that one.’ To Sherwood’s credit, in a world where football players cover their mouths and managers speak in clichés, his bullish approach is rather refreshing. 

With that, we start on the topic of the modern-day game. 

CHRIS SUTTON: I cleaned your boots at Norwich! You weren’t one of the highest-paid players but at Christmas, you gave me the same tip as Ian Butterworth and Paul Blades — £20! But before that, and before we won the title at Blackburn together in ’95, you started at Watford. Talk me through that.

TIM SHERWOOD: Tom Walley was Watford youth coach. Legendary. It was tough love. He was really showing you how to make it rather than blowing smoke up your a***.

I was an apprentice under Graham Taylor. My youth-team manager sent me over to train with the first team and told me to rattle a few of them. ‘Make sure the manager knows your name when you come away.’

Brian Talbot, who played for Arsenal for a very long time and came to Watford towards the back end of his career, said to Taylor: ‘Can you tell this f***ing idiot to stop kicking me?’ Taylor said: ‘You know that number you wear on a Saturday? Perhaps that f***ing idiot wants it.’ That stuck with me.

Then Dave Bassett took over and my full debut was away at Goodison Park against a team who had p***ed the league. Everton won 2-0. I thought: ‘Jesus, is this going to be this hard every week? I’ve got no chance.’

Sherwood (L) and Sutton (R) were team-mates in a highly successful Blackburn team

CS: That must have influenced the way you go about bringing boys through.

TS: The pathway is harder now — I appreciate that — but they have to realise it is hard work. You don’t just drop out of the Tottenham academy and go play for Crystal Palace or Fulham. You can come out of the Tottenham academy and fall off the face of the earth. That could be the end.

CS: You think youngsters nowadays don’t appreciate the pathway and what it takes?

TS: They get their a***s wiped for them. The opposite of this for me is Harry Kane.

CS: You handed Kane his full league debut for Tottenham. He obviously impressed you.

TS: He would play the same way for £1 a week. He would never waste one day on the training field.

I would take attitude over ability all day. If you can marry the two up, then you’ve got a serious footballer. I hate it when I hear pundits talking about ‘natural talent’. There’s no such thing.

Sherwood gave Harry Kane his full Spurs debut against Sunderland with the striker scoring

CS: Surely you have players born with naturally athletic gifts?

TS: That’s physical. I don’t buy that there are natural goalscorers. Lionel Messi is what he is because he’s dribbled a stone round an alleyway and his brothers have been kicking s*** out of him for five years. It’s nurture. You aren’t just born like that.

CS: You’ll have read what Kane has said about leaving Tottenham. He’ll only stay if he believes they are ambitious, but he’s 26 now and running out of time. What would you advise?

TS: It’s like Alan Shearer. He finishes fourth with Blackburn (in 1992-93), then second (in 1993-94). Manchester United are all over him. But he decides to stay, because he believes we have the quality to win it, and we did the next season. Harry needs to assess this himself. I would wait to see what they do in the summer.

They’ve got a manager who has not gone there to only finish inside the top four. Harry will know very soon if the club are willing to spend that money to give themselves that opportunity of winning the league.

A five-month spell as Tottenham boss saw Sherwood record a win percentage of 59.1

Sherwood was appointed Tottenham manager in December 2013 after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas but departed five months later. He left with the best win ratio of any Spurs boss in Premier League history — 59.1 per cent. Mauricio Pochettino replaced him, but Sherwood insists that came as no surprise. He was privy to chairman Daniel Levy’s masterplan.

TS: I knew I was holding fort before Pochettino came in. I also knew there was no point in taking over from Andre Villas-Boas and not changing anything. He got sacked for a reason. They weren’t winning enough football matches, scoring enough goals, or playing with enough freedom. So I looked at the players. Emmanuel Adebayor, for instance, was being isolated, training with me and the kids.

I always made sure he had the right attitude otherwise I wouldn’t have had him there with the boys anyway. I brought him back, and we won more than we lost.

CS: What was your relationship like with Levy?

TS: Very good, and it still is. 

CS: You still talk to him now?

TS: Yeah.

CS: Did you not feel hard done by? You were shown the door, and Poch was shown your office.

TS: No, because I knew. I knew the job. I knew the script. I knew he was ready to come in and they needed someone in the meantime. It would’ve been different if I didn’t know. Perhaps I would’ve liked that opportunity, like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at United. But I knew it wasn’t my job. 

It is nearly five years since Sherwood led Aston Villa to the FA Cup final against Arsenal in 2015

After Tottenham, Sherwood took over Aston Villa. It is approaching the five-year anniversary of their 2015 FA Cup final, which Villa lost 4-0 to Arsenal. He has not managed since his Villa sacking. 

TS: It’s a mad house of a job. Do I want to put myself back in that firing line? If I feel I’ve got a realistic chance of succeeding, then I will do it. I loved my time at Villa. When I first went in there, we were struggling, in the relegation zone, then we managed to steer clear. We got to the final, which was probably the worst thing we could have done.

CS: Why was that the worst thing?

TS: It raised expectations. The owner there, Randy Lerner, is entitled to feel how he wants. But he felt that if you can get to an FA Cup final, and outplay Liverpool along the way at Wembley, then surely you can stay in the league.

He had his ideas on recruitment, and he moved the goalposts. I used to say to Randy: ‘You want to put decorations on a Christmas tree with a tree you haven’t got.’

It was like me being the director of a film and him giving me the actors to work with.

CS: Villa could go down, but who knows what will happen. Do we need to finish this season?

TS: It has to finish. More than ever, those sports scientists, of which there are about 10 at every club, this is their time. If you’re a player and you miss pre-season, what happens? You struggle. When we play League One or Championship sides in pre-season and we are two weeks behind them, we get beat. 

It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re Blackburn in 94-95, or Liverpool now, you get beat, due to fitness. Whoever gets this right, whoever can hit the ground running, will give themselves a real chance of survival and the top four.

The midfielder was an integral part of Kenny Dalglish’s Premier League winning Blackburn side

It is 25 years since Blackburn won the Premier League in 1994-95, pipping Manchester United by a point. In one game Sherwood was booked, then an opponent tried a through-ball. He blocked it with a handball, and knew it deserved a second yellow. 

Sherwood raced towards the ref, who had started to reach for his cards. The captain, worried about Blackburn’s title chances, pleaded: ‘If you send me off, you’re going to shatter my dreams.’ The official, who shall remain unnamed, put his hand down and said: ‘You owe me one.’

TS: And I do!

CS: What a story. Why did you go to Blackburn? You were dropping down a division at the time.

TS: Kenny Dalglish. Simple as that. They were in the equivalent of the Championship but everyone could see they were building something. Kenny sold me the vision.

CS: You got promoted to the Premier League, finished fourth, then second… then we won it.

TS: There was a swagger about the squad. I don’t remember Kenny ever worrying about the opposition in training. We were always about us imposing ourselves on them.

CS: We were eight points clear of United with six games to go. Then it started to unravel. As captain, were you bricking it?

TS: I remember talking about winning the title in the dressing room and Stuart Ripley — a dour guy from the North East — said: ‘Don’t talk about it. Don’t mention it.’ But we all knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

If we didn’t win it then, we weren’t going to win it the next year. It’s like Liverpool losing it now. Would you put any money on them to win it next year? Probably not. The reason we won the league was our spirit. We would dig each other out. I’d say to you: ‘You need to start getting hold of the ball.’ You’d say to me: ‘F*** off, why don’t you pass it to me properly?’ You get it out in the open.

Sherwood famously drew comparisons with France legend Zinedine Zidane while at Blackburn

CS: Let’s just say we demanded a lot of each other. It was an ambitious club.

TS: It was a family. Jack Walker, the owner, was a fan. He used to come into the dressing room with us and play penny up the wall. I remember Christophe Dugarry and Zinedine Zidane came to the training ground to have a look around. Then Jack famously said: ‘Why do you need Zidane when we’ve got Sherwood?’

CS: I bet you were living off that quote for a while!

TS: I still do!

Reporter Kieran Gill listened in


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