The Sun’s glossy portrayal of Tim Sherwood does a disservice to Swindon fans after his miserable reign
Napoleon had it right.
‘History is a set of lies agreed upon,’ he said. The Little General knew what he was talking about. Narrow victories on the battlefields of Europe were twisted into era-defining triumphs, defeats were never discussed and the French emperor’s image was emboldened through generous portraits in print and on canvas by cronies and yes-men in the arts.
It was propaganda 101 – designed to absolve the French emperor of blame. Rewriting history in his favour.
Two hundred-odd years later, nothing has changed. Whitewashing the past to suit the present is a common trick used by the irresponsible, the cowardly and those scrambling for power – be that in politics, finance or football.
Just as it was prevalent in the Parisian Consulate of the 18th century, so it is in 21st-century Wiltshire, or London, or wherever the hell Tim Sherwood is hiding today.
The Sun’s Neil Ashton says the former Swindon Town director of football has been watching England’s Young Lions get eliminated from Euro 2017 on penalties by Germany, lamenting another generation of homegrown starlets lost in Premier League academies.
In a comment piece that is part advertorial, part LinkedIn profile, Ashton waxes lyrical about Sherwood’s passion, pedigree and perseverance, painting the man ironically labelled Tactics Tim as a latter-day Johan Cruyff.
Hurdling the past with the pace of Istabraq and grace of Hurricane Fly, the article gives great emphasis to Sherwood’s work in the youth academy at Tottenham, his responsibility for the development of 10 individually named players and his grand plans for the future of English football – which seems to amount to sending ‘em out on loan.
But little mention is given to the last three years of his career, his struggles with Aston Villa and the omnishambles over which he presided at the County Ground.
It is almost as though the author is at pains to avoid the topic.
Sherwood was an indisputable failure at Swindon Town. Paraded as ‘one of the biggest appointments this club has ever made’, his team won just seven matches out of 32 during his tenure. For two of those victories he wasn’t even in the stands after receiving a stadium ban for calling a referee a fucking mug. Three times.
He was brought in with a mandate to govern every aspect of the club – team selection, transfers, training, tactics, the lot. Chairman Lee Power was proudly emphatic about that during a press conference in November, Sherwood was regularly seen running drills at the club’s Wootton Bassett training centre and he took to the dugout to get his message over to his squad.
This was not a man involved purely in an ‘ill-conceived consultancy role’, as Ashton describes it. This was a man in command, a man in total control. Ill-conceived control.
Yet, seven months on, after Swindon were relegated with a whimper, Sherwood is trying to weasel away from the car crash he helped cause.
In April he appeared on Sky Sports and distanced himself from what happened in Wiltshire, somewhat callously saying ‘it wasn’t a job for me’, slinking down a sidestreet, hoping the episode would just disappear from his CV.
That’s his prerogative – a slimy prerogative but his nonetheless – but the fact he is being facilitated by a national newspaper is hugely frustrating for the supporters who had to watch their rudderless club drifting out to sea.
The Sun’s headline calls Sherwood ‘straight-talking’. Try telling that to members of the local media in Swindon. Not once did they get the chance to ask questions of the club’s director of football across his miserable six-month reign.
The Sun’s headline calls Sherwood an ‘antidote to yes-men in football’. Power openly admitted that employing his best friend was ‘one million per cent an old pals’ act’. Below him at Swindon, Luke Williams was ‘manager’ in title only yet had to front up to the press to explain decisions made above his head.
The Sun’s headline claims people in football are afraid of Sherwood. The only thing that scares the people of Swindon are the flashbacks of rotten football priced at £23 a pop and home defeat at the hands of non-League Eastleigh in the FA Cup.
Ashton writes: ‘In Sherwood’s view there are… too many people safeguarding their careers and protecting their positions’.
Hold my coat, mate, I need to turn off the irony alarm.
For those who watched his time at Swindon closely, and admittedly there aren’t many of us, it was pretty obvious that Sherwood’s actions since relegation was confirmed on April 22 were all about self-preservation.
His post-truth take on what happened at the County Ground has infuriated the fans who had to put up with their director of football – the top man at the club, the ‘biggest appointment’ in years – missing the fierce local derby against Oxford, turning up on the golf course a day before a critical relegation scrap and only speaking about his role when on ambassadorial duty for Football Manager.
The story of his reign could have been scripted by Armando Iannucci and Ricky Gervais – part scything self-parody, part Brent-ish ignorance. Tactless Tim.
Yes, he was a fine midfielder and a title-winning captain. Yes, he played an important role in the careers of some of Tottenham’s bright lights. Yes, he has every right to find another job in the game.
But to let him waltz on out of his Swindon Town clusterfuck and polish his dancing shoes for him on the way through is thoroughly irresponsible.
Drawing parallels between Napoleon and Sherwood is, of course, ridiculous – one was a genocidal despot responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and the other an out-of-work football coach from Borehamwood.
But the notion that anyone can see others rewrite history in their favour, no questions asked, rankles.
Let’s have an end to it. Today.