Glenn Hoddle

Tim Sherwood and Swindon Town: ‘One of the Biggest Miscalculations the club has ever made’

November 10, 2016. A huddle of journalists are gathered at the ‘Imagine Cruising suite’ – the room where Swindon Town make their significant statements to the press, as opposed to the more ‘cosy’ area for the post-match evaluation.

All they have been told is at that half-past one Swindon will be making a ‘major announcement’. The press officer is eluded to what is about to happen just 10 minutes before the big moment of Tim Sherwood being named as the club’s director of football.

It was not immediately clear then that that would not only be the first time Sherwood addressed the media in person, but the last as well.

Swindon Town are the sort of club you would describe as ‘modest’, if you were trying to appear respectful, but mindful of causing offence to its loyal, but now disenchanted fan base.

Its finest hour came almost 50 years ago, with the 1969 League Cup win over Arsenal, and it has graced the Premier League only once, over two decades ago. They conceded over 100 goals, finished bottom (then 22nd), and got relegated again the season after.

Ever since, they have been trying to get back, without success. This season they got relegated back down to League Two, after escaping it in the spring of 2012.

Like many clubs of its stature, it predominantly prides itself not on league titles, or cup victories (minus 1969 of course), or, nowadays, even derby wins, but on the ‘we made him’ sort of badge of honour you get when a player achieves great things not at your club, but because of said club.

Those, too, are fading now. Even Charlie Austin, the true 21st-Century Swindon Town poster boy, poached from Poole Town in 2009, has had just one call-up to the England squad. He didn’t play.

Managers though are a different kettle of fish. Glenn Hoddle cut his managerial teeth in the West Country, guided the Robins to the Premier League, and went on to manage England, with a stint at Chelsea in the middle.

In 1989, Ossie Ardiles was in the dugout of the County Ground in a red tracksuit winning promotion to the first division with an Argentine blend of tiki-taka, 11 years post-World Cup ticker tape. The promotion shortly became a demotion due to financial irregularities, but as the memories of that sting, the on-the-pitch triumphs do not get forgotten.

Nor do the accolades of other ‘big names’ Lou Macari, Steve McMahon, a certain Paolo Di Canio or the coaching team of Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet, who sowed the seeds of a Swindon League Two promotion-winning campaign in 2007, before they upped sticks to Leeds and Paul Sturrock carried on from where they left off.

It was therefore a bold claim when now-chairman Lee Power described the appointment of Sherwood as: “One of the biggest appointments the club has ever made,” which was preceded by him being labelled “one of the top, young English managers.” Not modest statements for this modest club.

Two days after the unveiling, Swindon thrashed Charlton Athletic 3-0 to much fanfare, in front of the Sky Sports cameras. The assorted media stuck around for this post-match press conference at least, but their questions were answered by still-head coach Luke Williams, instead of the man recently given full control of “all football-related matters”, which consists of “transfers, tactics, and training,” as well, it would turn out, team talks.

The wins dried up, Sherwood never turned up, the non-local media stopped coming and Williams was answering press questions and facing fan forum backlash for a team that was no longer his.

If there was one manager you could say is no stranger to the cult following social media brings, Sherwood might be it. His Jack-the-Lad persona that saw him reach Vine ‘fame’ for throwing his trademark Gilet and kicking door-opening buttons was only exacerbated when the ‘Director of Football’ began an FA Cup first-round replay against Eastleigh in the stands and ended it in the dugout. The first, and only, time he did so.

The BBC pondered: “Does Tim Sherwood manage the Robins or not?” while JOE declared that: “Tim Sherwood has gone full Football Manager at Swindon Town.” The second jibe became remarkably literal in February.

Not managing actual football teams of course.

With Swindon hovering just above the relegation zone, reeling from a 1-0 loss at local rivals Bristol Rovers and in the middle of what would turn out to be a five-match losing streak, Sherwood appeared – doing a Q&A, not for the media, but for Squawka in a promotion for the computer game, Football Manager.

Four days later Swindon had, and lost, another derby – against Oxford. Sherwood was absent. Power told TalkSPORT on Valentine’s Day, no less, that firstly Sherwood’s hiring was “one million per cent an old pals act” and then revealed that Sherwood was not at the Oxford match as he was doing some “football business for that club” that could only be done on that day.

That was after Town fans had twigged that Sherwood’s birthday was the day after the Oxford game.

Williams was put back in charge of on-pitch activity but Sherwood was back in the stands for the trip to Bury the week after. That was until half-time, when Sherwood launched into a tirade at the referee, calling him a f****** mug for awarding the Shakers a penalty.

On February 23, he was slapped with a two-game stadium ban for his comments. Swindon won both of those games. The first time they achieved back-to-back victories in over a year.

He was back for the home game against Chesterfield. Swindon lost. The Robins didn’t win again until a home match against Millwall, 1-0. Sherwood stayed away from that one. Maybe if he stayed away every week Swindon would have survived.

Alas, they were relegated, which confined Swindon’s to next season’s League Two and, on June 14, just over seven months after arriving, Sherwood’s departure was confirmed.

“Tim’s gone.” Those were the cold words of Power on a hot summer’s day in Swindon at the introductory press conference for the club’s new manager, David Flitcroft. No clouds were in sight that day, not even the biggest one in the club’s recent history.

 

 

Time for QPR to be daring in manager market

Harry Redknapp’s abrupt decision to resign as Queens Park Rangers manager could be the catalyst for the West London club to reinvent themselves.

Redknapp opted to leave Loftus Road due to an ‘upcoming knee operation’, just one day after the often described ‘wheeler-dealer’ manager failed to sign anyone on transfer deadline day, which many associate the 67-year-old with annually – whether he likes it or not.

In Redknapp’s tenure, QPR picked up an unhealthy reputation of signing players on high wages who did not have either the talent, desire, or both, to earn the big salary.

The R’s were relegated from the Premier League in the 2012/13 season with the likes of Julio Cesar, Christopher Samba, Tal Ben-Haim, Samba Diakite, Park Ji-Sung, Adel Taarabt, Estaban Granero, Stephane Mbia and Loic Remy all on their books.

Not to forget Jose Bosingwa who was pictured smiling when he left the pitch as QPR’s relegation was confirmed following a 0-0 draw at home to Reading. Samba joined Rangers from Anzhi Makhachkala for £12.5 million in that January, earned a reported £100,000 a week, then rejoined the Russian club six months later for £500,000 less.

No laughing matter: Bosingwa epitomised the poison dressing room at QPR

No laughing matter: Bosingwa epitomised the poison dressing room at QPR

They were expected to bounce back to the Premier League easily due to their financial backing from Tony Fernandes, but hopped rather than bounced, finishing 4th, however winning the play-offs – beating Derby 1-0 with a last minute Bobby Zamora strike, although Derby dominated proceedings at Wembley for large periods.

Despite Charlie Austin blossoming, QPR languish in 19th this time around, losing every single away match to date as well. Which is why it’s time for them to make a bold appointment.

Tim Sherwood is currently the bookies’ favourite to succeed his fellow former Tottenham manager and that would not be such a bad choice.

Sherwood boasts a 59% win rate as Tottenham manager, more than anyone else in the club’s history (Redknapp’s was 49%), and Sherwood is a young boss who has only fairly recently left the greatest game on earth, not something Redknapp can claim.

Sherwood was arguably unfairly dismissed by Spurs just six months into his 18 month contract in what was the worst kept secret in recent Premier League history. He won 14 of his 28 games in charge.

QPR coach “Sir” Les Ferdinand is also in the frame, but legends have been used before as inspiration to guide a club to greater things and examples such as Alan Shearer (Newcastle) and Stuart Pearce (Nottingham Forest) has not worked. Garry Monk at Swansea has had great success, however, Monk had been at the Swans for 10 years. Ferdinand may not get the same backing from a dressing room he has only known since last October.

Glenn Hoddle too is in the fold, despite being out of work since resigning from Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2006. He revolutionised English football with the success of the 3-5-2 system, long before Louis van Gaal, taking Swindon Town to the Premier League, then getting the England job after continuing the success at Chelsea.

The risky safe options: Les Ferdinand and Glenn Hoddle

The risky safe options: Les Ferdinand and Glenn Hoddle

Comments suggesting the disabled were punished for acts they did in a past life led to his sacking though, and his career has never really recovered. Punditry for ITV has begun the rebuilding work, but it may be all too late. Hoddle’s ideas on and off the pitch seem out of touch.

A more left field and ambitious appointment would be that of Real Madrid assistant manager Paul Clement. The relatively unknown 43-year-old spent time as the academy coach at first Chelsea, then Fulham, before moving onto a brief coaching role at the Republic of Ireland.

He returned to football in 2007, back at Chelsea, working with the youth team and then joined the first team set up under Guus Hiddink in the 2008/2009 season as the Blues won the FA Cup. He stayed on for Carlo Ancelotti’s time at Stamford Bridge, winning another FA Cup as well as a Premier League title before working with a less successful manager, Steve Kean, at Blackburn.

The damned life at Blackburn was swapped for the Notre Dame when Ancelotti signed him up for his Paris Saint-Germain side that would go on to romp to the 2012/13 Ligue 1 title by 12 points.

Dream Team: Paul Clement (right) with Zinedine Zidane (left) and Carlo Ancelotti (centre)

Dream Team: Paul Clement (right) with Zinedine Zidane (left) and Carlo Ancelotti (centre)

Carlo came calling again, this time for none other than Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, and the rest of the Galacticos are under the mentorship of Ancelotti and Clement. Madrid are now La Liga, Copa del Rey, and Champions League holders, after finally clinching La Decima.

Madrid’s sunny shores may be too tough to leave for Clement, but he has expressed a desire to become the figurehead of a football club, and, being the son of QPR legend Dave Clement, he may not be completely out of reach.

Always look on the bright side of life – Why Swindon fans should not be moaning

After Swindon’s latest loss, this time a 1-4 home trouncing by Wolves, Town fans are not in high spirits. Being eight points behind sixth place Peterborough with Posh having a game in hand doesn’t look encouraging as Swindon’s play off ambitions are fading fast. Here are five reasons why Swindon supporters should still be smiling though.

1) Few thought we’d get a play off spot in pre season anyway

Following then Chairman Jed McCrory’s decision to slash the wage budget from £5 million to £2.5 million, 12 players decided to leave the club. The two departures that left fans most upset were fan favourite Simon Ferry and club captain Alan McCormack who left on frees and then signed on at Portsmouth and Brentford respectively. The mood following these departures was at an all time low, if memory serves correctly, a lot of the doom mongers were thinking relegation was looming. Manager Kevin MacDonald was not the man who captured the imagination of many of the Town faithful either. He resigned pre season but at a terrible time and spirits at the County Ground didn’t look like they’d raise any time soon. A new Manager was forthcoming though.

2) We have an inexperienced Manager, who is doing admirably

Mark “cheap option” Cooper was MacDonald’s assistant when the Scot arrived on February 28th and was appointed full time boss August 20th after one win and two defeats as caretaker in the first three games of the season. Cooper was seen as the cheap option as he was hired from within when people such as Neil Warnock and Paul Tisdale were linked to the job as well as club legends Glen Hoddle and Martin Ling. Even Tim Sherwood’s name, Tottenham reserve Manager at the time, was mentioned due to Swindon’s new link with Spurs, an appointment that would have made sense with a fair few Tottenham reserve team players now plying their trade at Swindon. Sherwood now has the top job at White Hart Lane of course.  

Mark Cooper is not known across the footballing world, having previously managed at Tamworth, Kettering, Darlington and Telford, along with an ill fated spell at Peterborough. Despite this though he is doing a good job, leading Swindon to the brink of a Wembley final, only being denied by former club Peterborough on penalties and challenging for the playoffs with an inexperienced squad, which leads onto my next point.

3) Swindon have a young team

Out of Town’s 16 new faces (14 in the Summer, then Dany N’Guessan in September and Ben Gladwin in November followed by Michael Smith and George Barker in January), only 3 are above the age of 23 (N’Guessan, Ryan Harley and Mohamed El Gabas). El Gabas has since left the club, which means that Swindon Town have a squad average age of 22.8, (23 if you want to round it up), the lowest in the division.*

*All players calculated had played at least 5 times this season at the time of writing.

"Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life"

“Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”

4) Injuries

Swindon have been dogged by injuries for what seems like all season.  The most notable of these would include number one Goalkeeper Wes Foderingham who has been ruled out with a groin injury since the trip to then league leaders Leyton Orient, which Town lost 2-0 with Tyrell Belford in goal. The Robins were 4 points off a play off spot before that game but as Peterborough won and Swindon lost, the gap was increased to 7 points. Swindon have not won since Foderingham has picked up his injury.

Another key man sat on the treatment table is joint top scorer Nile Ranger. The 22-year-old former Newcastle man is out for the rest of the season after tearing his hamstring in the Valentines Day draw at home to Colchester. Ranger has scored 10 goals this season and shares that tally with Nicky Ajose who was lively in a Red shirt but his loan has now expired and has returned to parent club Peterborough, he has four in six for them.

The club’s player of the season last year Nathan Thompson also looks to be out for the remainder of the season now with an ankle injury, Grant Hall has been nursing a calf injury since mid January, Alex Pritchard has just returned from a medical ligament strain while Ryan Mason, a highly rated youngster, has missed more games than he’s played.

5) Swindon are producing fine talents

One of the club’s many Tottenham youth players at SN1, Alex Pritchard, has blossomed since joining the club on a season long loan following England’s abject display at the Under 20 World Cup which he featured in. The 20 year old winger has been nominated for both young player of the year, and player of the year awards for League 1 which, should he win the player of the year award, would be the second Swindon player in a row to do so after Matt Ritchie won it last season. Ritchie also scooped up the League 2 player of the season award when Town surged to the title win in the 2011/12 season.

AP QRP

Along with this, Massimo Luongo, another addition from Tottenham, a permanent one this time, has recently received his first International call up for Australia as he now tries to book himself a place on the plane for the World Cup no less. Should Luongo make The Socceroos’ 23 man squad he’d be the third player in Swindon’s history to go to a World Cup while being at the club. Alan McLoughlin (Italy 1990 for Ireland) and Jan Aage Fjortoft (USA 1994 for Norway) are the other two. Yaser Kasim has also just been called up to his country’s last squad, and made his debut in a 3-0 win over China as Iraq sealed their place at the 2015 Asia Cup, which will be held in Australia next January.

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