When Paul Lambert was removed from his post as the Aston Villa manager; and American owner Randy Lerner swiftly drafted in ex-Spurs manger and a three time England international Tim Sherwood, the odds looked stacked against the new man in charge as he faced the daunting challenge of preventing a misfiring Villa from dropping out of the top division for the first time since 1987.
Many fans were at first sceptical about the appointment of a manager with less than six months experience in first team management, but when he was present at Villa’s 2-1 win over Leicester in the FA cup 5th round, Aston Villa fans started to grow in optimism as the exciting character started to implement his ideas into the historic football club. Despite losing his opening two games, against Stoke and Newcastle respectively, his side showed great signs of improvement with January loan signing Scott Sinclair a particular highlight – scoring the opener against Stoke with a dynamic header.
Two wins in a week against West Brom left Villa fans in ecstasy; invading the Villa Park pitch in the second of these as Sherwood led the Birmingham club to their first Wembley appearance since they were defeated by Chelsea in 2010. A relegation six-pointer against Sunderland awaited Sherwood and his men. The game was immediately taken control of by the visiting Villa, with the attacking duo of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke, who had previously failed to perform well together upfront, proved too much to handle for the Sunderland defence and by half time Sunderland were in disarray and trailing by four – Agbonlahor and Benteke sharing the goals. Villa played with passion, style and had the air of a side that was playing for their manager.
Sherwood is a great believer in the use of the youth academy, having previously been Tottenham’s under 21’s manager. In the win against Sunderland sixteen-year-old Birmingham born striker Rushian Hepburn-Murphy was given his debut and became the youngest Aston Villa player in the premier league era. He hasn’t just given opportunities; he has moved his office to overview the clubs youth training squads, observing their development first hand.
His style of management has been criticised by some as brash and unfriendly, although it is clear that the appointment of Tim Sherwood has so far proved a successful one for Villa. With him not just getting the results, he has guided Villa to Wembley and had a view towards the future of the club.
By Felix Shears