Tim Sherwood fearful of all things foreign
Tottenham boss is right to be nervous about his job after a hardly resounding vote of confidence from club owner Daniel Levy
How noble it was of Spurs owner Daniel Levy to offer words of comfort to his fledgling manager Tim Sherwood as the North London club prepared for a white-knuckle derby against Arsenal on Sunday, a must-win game to save their season from disarray.
An emotional Sherwood - handed an 18-month contract after the disastrous regime of Andre Villas-Boas - hit out at his expensive though impotent players after the 4-0 thrashing at Chelsea last Saturday.
Not one to moan in half measures, Sherwood also seized the moment - with many a journalist's pen poised - to point out with some gusto the deafening silence issued by his boss over his midterm future.
The squad - assembled in an extravagant shopping spree after the sale of Gareth Bale - lacked character, he lamented.
Tottenham spent £93 million (HK$1.2 billion) last summer, bringing in seven players to replace match-winning Bale. Yet not one of them was deemed fit for the starting line-up against Chelsea.
Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela, Vlad Chiriches and Etienne Capoue were out injured, but even when fit, it is perhaps too late to rely on them to propel Spurs into the top four.
Andros Soldado was showing some signs of a return to form, but was still dropped for the Chelsea game, so too Paulinho and Nacer Chadli.
Money can buy brilliant players, but as every manager knows, extracting the right stuff from them - desire, courage, ambition - takes more than a ridiculous weekly wage. It takes a special boss to get such precious specimens to perform to their best week in week out.
The jury remains retired as it deliberates on rookie Sherwood's managerial prowess. Until the recent dip, he was doing admirably well to lift the gloom that lodged under the White Hart Lane rafters during his predecessor's bizarre reign.
When he took charge the club were, in the eyes of trophy-demanding Levy, going to the dogs. Spurs were seventh with 27 points from 16 matches, notching on average 1.68 points per game.
Sherwood has taken 26 points at an average of two points per game from the 13 EPL games he has overseen - not bad; two points per game last season would have been enough to finish third.
Despite his achievements, the fledgling manager is anxious about his authority and future.
Levy had done little to quash widely held suggestions a big-name foreign manager, such as Dutch national coach Louis van Gaal, will be appointed if a Champions League berth goes wanting once more.
That now looks more likely after the defeat at Stamford Bridge, which left Spurs fifth, four points behind Manchester City, but having played three games more.
Danger approaches from below, too. A win for Manchester United and Everton - both also have games in hand - would have them nicely poised to leapfrog Spurs should Sherwood's men balk at this weekend's challenge.
sunday will undoubtedly be an enthralling cruncher. After their midweek humiliating exit from the Champions League, Arsenal will be gunning for the EPL crown, and overcoming their prime antagonists will stiffen the sinew for the run-in.
All things foreign weigh heavily on Sherwood's mind, though missing out on a Champions League berth does not top his list of offshore phobias. "Until you get a foreign manager of this club, nobody is happy," scowled Sherwood during his outburst.
Tis true. The corridors of White Hart Lane have long echoed to the misguided sentiment and belief that foreign leadership is the key to unlock European and EPL title success.
Foreign managers are better, wiser, cooler, shrewder, tactically more astute and adept at turning said key, goes the board's refrain.
No matter that it was a foreigner who took the club to lowly - sarcastic gasp - seventh.
It was not Sherwood who squandered large chunks of the Bale bounty in the summer. Nor was it he who conceded six away to Manchester City and five at home to Liverpool.
Given the injury list and what appears to be a demoralised squad, Spurs played honourably against Chelsea and 4-0 was a harsh result.
Yet all the callow, Thames estuary, vowel-dropping Englishman Sherwood hears are the dropping of exotic names - experienced, urbane, continental types bantered about as his replacement: Joachim Loew, Jurgen Klopp, Borussia Monchengladbach coach Lucien Favre and of course, van Gaal.
Sherwood's outburst was borne of frustration, but it was also fuelled by fear. Levy has a track record of expelling managers - even if it means paying them off handsomely to break their contracts. The former Spurs player fears his new career will prematurely end and before he has a chance to show what he can do in the transfer market. Sunday's game is arguably make or break for the greenhorn coach.
Perhaps sensing the world weighing on his manager's and fans' shoulders, Levy offered a midweek squeak and broke the silence over Sherwood's standing in the eyes of the board.
Though not quite an endorsement, Levy credited Sherwood for rejuvenating Emmanuel Adebayor after bringing him in from the cold.
He also noted Sherwood's record since taking over in December is a good as - if not better than - the past managers that have graced The Lane.
How noble indeed of Levy to offer some semblance of support, even if begrudgingly.
Expect a more ignoble retort if the goals start flying into the wrong net on Sunday, however.