“You’re getting sacked in the morning”. These days it’s not unusual to hear the chant, given that the tenure of the average manager is almost as short as the attention span of a goldfish. Rare however that it applies to both managers in the same game.
This one came from the Villa fans, their rumbustious gallows humour a delight throughout the match, raising several rounds of applause from the Spurs support. Lambert was their target, a shrunken figure slumped on the bench for much of the game, once or twice absentmindedly applauding some random effort from his toiling players before slipping back inside himself. Premier League safety ended the tension and brought home the stark reality of how bad their season has been.
Sherwood meanwhile was far more chipper, approaching his impending P45 as a man with a plan. He’s spent half a season crafting his CV. The fine attacking football in the first half that won us this game was as good an advert as he could hope for. I didn’t see the much publicised incident where he invited a critical fan down to the bench for the last 5 minutes but that’s the man of the people tag right there, plus a little dig post-match at the lack of English managers in the game. The Villa support chanted, ‘give us a wave’. Perhaps his job application is on the hall table waiting to be posted.
He’s learnt a lot since he took over. I just wish that Levy had not decided to give him the chance to practice being a manager with my team. He played with Sandro as a defensive-minded midfielder. Afterwards he said this change of tactic was to break up opposition attacks but it’s puzzling to see why yesterday, given that the Villa fans dressed in traffic cones could have done better than their hopelessly ineffective team, as opposed to most matches in the last few months where for extended periods we were over-run centrally.
Sandro’s presence plus Villa’s lack of resilience gave the rest license to push forward. We quickly got right on top, with both full-backs pushing up, Adebayor running wide to create space for Siggy, Paulinho and Kane while Eriksen tucked to be at his creative best. Even Naughton made a run into the box from deep, that’s how much freedom we had.
The interplay was a pleasure to watch. Paulinho scored our first, on the end of a quick move involving several players, a blur of swift passing putting him in on goal. Before you could blink, a sharp cross from Rose on the left was turned in by the Villa centre half then Adebayor’s shot hit a hand. He must have something on several of his team-mates because after his last two efforts from the spot he still was the choice for this one, but well-taken.
We cheered the Spurs under 8s at half-time. We have a player called Magic Smalls, and that’s good. Villa fans kept singing but their fancy-dress conga was broken up by stewards. No fun allowed in a football ground.
Nothing much happened in the second half as Ledley’s XI tonight will probably provide sterner opposition than Villa. The subs board broke – who would have thought they had back-up numbers just in case? The match clicked to 91, yes 91 – usually stops at 90 however long the added time! Such was the drama of the final 45 minutes of the season.
We stayed for the lap of appreciation. The season highlights played out on dim jumbotron screens so they were barely visible. Metaphors wherever you look. Noticeably fewer other souls hung around, compared with previous seasons. I’m never quite sure if we are supposed to be appreciating them or they appreciate us. The Belgian players chatted amongst themselves – they could at least pretend. All they have to do is walk around a bit and wave, but no.
Gomes and Lamela exist! Lloris was engaged with the stragglers in the stands, perhaps his way of saying goodbye.
Season’s review to come later this week.