City’s visit to White Hart Lane back in mid-September was – despite the relatively modest scoreline – the first of the season’s real horror shows. Without dwelling too much on the non-performance, it can be summed up in three stats: one shot on target, one corner, 32 per cent of possession.
Tottenham looked unstoppable that afternoon and oozed the quality one would expect of a club that had just completed a £80million summer trolley dash. Andre Vilas Boas was being lauded as the one to finally bring silverware to the Lane and everything in Daniel Levy’s garden looked looked rosy (excuse the pun).
Who could have imagined that five short months later AVB would be jobless and instead a relatively inexperienced and junior member of the club’s coaching staff would be charged with leading the Lilywhites’ charge for a Champions League spot – one who used to play for Norwich.
Tim Sherwood’s stint as a City player – in the late 80s/early 90s – was short and not especially sweet. While he has made no attempt – as far as I’m aware – to airbrush his time in the Fine City from history (now known as a ‘Townsend’) his time here was not without its troubles.
Rather than be remembered for being a decent player – which he was – his spell here was equally notable for his off-field activities. Not one to blend into the background, Sherwood’s appearances at Ritzy and Rick’s Place (not to be confused with Ricky’s place – which is on the City bench betwixt Wes and Johan) were as frequent, and arguably more successful, than those at Carrow Road.
The confidence and swagger displayed by the young Sherwood endeared him in equal measure to the canary faithful and the city’s nightclub doormen (allegedly), and toward the end of his spell his place in the heart of the Yellow Army was more Steve Morison than Darren Huckerby.
Not that he cared. When questioned about the brickbats being hurled in his direction his response was one that suggested his time in Norfolk was nearing an end. And so it proved, with Kenny Dalglish making him one of his first signings in Jack Walker’s Blackburn revolution.
Despite the doubts and angst of the Geoffrey Watling Stand faithful, Sherwood did indeed go on to fulfil the promise that had flickered in the yellow and green and, in addition to lifting the Premier League trophy as Blackburn’s captain in 1994/95, he went on to earn three full England caps.
Not bad for one who had never been afraid to speak his mind – whoever the intended recipient. And now he is being handsomely paid by said Mr Levy to do just that.
It speaks volumes of his potential in the eyes of his chairman, that Sherwood was handed the Tottenham job – upon the demise of AVB – ahead of a whole host of international candidates. It was certainly a diversion from the trendy route; Premier League chairmen invariably of the opinion that foreign is best when it comes to appointing managers 2014-style.
And so far, so good. A 5-1 home thumping by Man City aside (and let’s face it, they’re not alone…) things have gone as well, if not better, than anyone in North London could have hoped.
All of which makes the task ahead of Chris Hughton’s men on Sunday afternoon every bit as daunting as the one against the Aguero-less City.
For what it’s worth the historic ‘form’ guide makes depressing reading. Not since 1991, in that weird ancient world known as Division One, have City been victorious at Carrow Road in a league game; the Capital One Cup victory a rarity on many levels.
Last season’s 1-1 draw – also on Sky – in the Premier League was alas the exception rather than the rule and, typically, victories for those in white have been the norm.
Armed with my yellow and green straws I was preparing to cite Spurs Thursday night excursion to Eastern Europe as a reason for optimism. But Sherwood trumped me by taking a weakened squad to the Ukraine with the specific intent of looking ahead to Sunday’s game.
Alas City are to be afforded no short cuts or even the tiniest of advantages ahead of Sunday and any result is going to have to be earned the hard way.
And while all the talk has – quite rightly – been of City’s all too obvious failings in front of goal, any success on Sunday will surely be borne of a defence as solid and watertight as the one on duty against Man City.
While it’s imperative that the issues in the final third are addressed if City are to give themselves even a chance of survival, Sunday’s game is going to be won and lost in the third inhabited by Messrs Ruddy, Olsson, Bassong, Yobo and Martin.
It takes a vivid imagination to visualise City emerging victorious in a 4-3 or a 3-2 (we’d still be given short shrift on Match of the Day) but to see them sneak home courtesy of a 1-0 ‘bum-squeaker’ requires slightly fewer magic mushrooms.
So… it’s easy. Ruddy to have a stormer, Bassong and Yobo to form an impenetrable barrier in front of him and Olsson and Martin (with support from Snodgrass and AN Other) to give the Spurs’ wide men not even a sniff.
And then, having spent a fair chunk of the game keeping Spurs at bay thanks to their compact 4-2-3-1, City to make inroads on the break and Hooper (or Ricky if he can be parted from Wes) to snaffle a late winner.
What can possibly go wrong?
And perhaps if the Geoffrey Watling Stand hardcore cast their minds back to 1991 and recall what it was about Sherwood that irked them so much then the afternoon will be a little uncomfortable for the Tottenham bench.
Who knows. All a little speculative maybe. But to crawl to 38 points one of big boys are going to have to be taken down.
On Sunday, in front of the Sky cameras, would be a good place to start.