Sherwood, Big Sam and the managerial merry-go-round

In his latest column, former England and Manchester United defender Paul Parker discusses the spate of managerial casualties this season, the Jose Mourinho soap opera and which clubs are already in relegation danger...

We’ve just seen another Premier League club part ways with their manager, with Aston Villa deciding to sack Tim Sherwood.

That makes it three so far this season and we’re only in October, after Brendan Rodgers was dismissed from Liverpool and Dick Advocaat decided to leave Sunderland.

In Sherwood’s case, you have to say it was the right move.

I said from day one he was the wrong person for Aston Villa. Looking at Villa’s history and everything about them, Tim Sherwood hadn’t earned the right in my opinion to manage a club like that.

They were in a precarious position because they were fighting relegation last season and they decided to go for a manager with very little experience. He got away with it, he went in there and smiled and was everyone’s friend, but that only works for a short while.

Sooner or later you have to show that you can man-manage and make people believe in you. Everything then flows from you as a manager and your experience.

Tim Sherwood managed the Spurs' under-21 side and then had a short shift as interim manager at Tottenham. It was a similar result there to what happened at Villa, they lifted a little, but they were also pretty disorganised in the way they played. There wasn’t any great cohesion.

Getting Villa to an FA Cup and saving them from relegation last season, everything looks rosy. But it just wasn’t going to work. The way he portrayed himself to the press, his pre-match and post-match interviews – which are big things in football now, as he’s the front of the brand – he just wasn’t the right person.

You just have to look at some of the performances. A game at Anfield earlier in the season finished 3-2, but that scoreline flattered Aston Villa. It wasn’t that Liverpool were good, but Villa were absolutely awful. If they’d lost 5-0, everyone would’ve said “they deserved that”. It was awful.

I remember some comments he made when they played Birmingham in the League Cup. His whole idea was to let Birmingham have a lot of the ball and then come out in the second half and dominate. But this is football. It’s not boxing.

It’s not Muhammad Ali going into a corner and taking hits from George Foreman knowing he’s going to run out of steam. It’s not a Rocky film. This is a football match and as a Premier League side, you can’t allow yourself to be dominated by a second division team. That was absolute rubbish.

Parker feels Nigel Pearson could be the right man for Aston Villa

We all know how big a business football has become nowadays. We know clubs probably shouldn’t always do it the way they do, but you can certainly see why it happens. There is so much at stake now they tend to think they don’t really have a choice. They can’t gamble on a certain person turning things around.

They look at the reaction of the fans. Are they leaving? Are there empty seats? Is it embarrassing when the cameras pan around the stadium? Football clubs are in the business of winning. If teams aren’t winning, they’re not doing well across the board.

In terms of a replacement, Villa could look to someone like a Nigel Pearson. He’s very enthusiastic, he’s experienced, he managed to turn Leicester around and get them out of relegation and, importantly, he did it the right way. He had them playing good football. It wasn’t ‘kick and run and hope’.

He’s experienced in the lower divisions, he’s experienced in the Premier League and he took a team up in the correct way. Yes he had certain issues and may go about things a little bit differently now, but I’m sure he’s learned some lessons about dealing with the press.

Villa need a vibrant, enthusiastic manager and I think Nigel Pearson is that. He’s not that young at 52, but he is in a position where he could go on and get better and better.

In terms of Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers, again it was the right move. It’s a move that has lifted the fans and has even lifted football in a certain way. I’ve got admiration for what Jurgen Klopp achieved at Borussia Dortmund and he’s also got personality. That can make a big difference.

People are looking to see if he can make a change at Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers wasn’t selling Liverpool. Too many people had negative opinions about him. It wasn’t good. I think you could tell the American owners were thinking 'we need something better than this'.

Sunderland have turned to Sam Allardyce. I feel this is the real test for him. Can he keep Sunderland up with the players he’s got there? I don’t think he can, but we’ll have to see. Are Sunderland going to give him money? If they do, what is he going to buy? Maybe the players he wants don’t want to play at Sunderland.

As successful as Sam has been in some ways, this is a big, big test.

The other fascinating managerial situation right now has to be at Stamford Bridge. I think Jose Mourinho is waiting for them to make a move. He wants them to make a move. This has got to stop somewhere. Someone has to make a decision. It’s getting a bit boring and I think people are getting fed-up with it to be honest.

Liverpool are coming up on Saturday and I think most people are thinking that if he loses this, Chelsea have to let him go. Is he going to be able to lift those players? I don’t think he can. There are definitely issues going on.

Pedro has already come out saying he thinks he made a mistake in joining Chelsea. I think he knows he made a mistake. The players don’t seem happy. People talk about confidence but that’s rubbish. They’ve got Champions League winners, they’ve got World Cup winners, they’ve got everything you could possibly need. We’re talking about grown men.

I think some of them might feel a little bit let down by their boss and the way he’s gone about things. He’s never come out and said “this is my fault”. Most managers will say the buck stops with me, I’m the one picking the side and tell them how he wants them to play.

Somewhere along the line he has to realise that he’s accountable. I don’t think he’s got to that point yet of taking any responsibility.

Can Klopp and co. inflict more misery on Mourinho?

He’s never been in this situation. But he must have a general idea about how to cope when things aren’t going right, especially with the quality around him. It just needs a little tweak for him to get something right. If it means leaving out a few of his big guns, then he needs to do that.

But he’s made life difficult for himself because he’s kept it quite minimal with how he uses his players. Some of them haven’t had any playing time. He’s asking players to deliver for him straight away when they’ve been idling for months and not run at full steam.

If you’ve been abusing someone and all of a sudden you find yourself in a trench alongside them, is that person going to fight for you?

We saw Chelsea beat Arsenal and it was supposedly going to be the start of their turnaround. Then Jose starts shouting his mouth off and having a go at Arsene Wenger and then the following week they went out and drew with Newcastle.

Yes Chelsea will be up for this game against Liverpool. If they have a win, the press will say they’re back. But it’s a big game. If those players can’t raise themselves to play Liverpool, that’s even more questionable. But they can do that. It’s when they come to bread and butter games they’ve been struggling. They’re losing to teams they would never normally lose to. I think a decision has to be made sooner rather than later.


Looking overall at the bottom half of the league and who might get relegated, it’s very difficult to call right now. You look at Villa and they look like they’re in trouble, but I think they might have a turnaround coming. They’ve got a new manager coming in and I think they’ve got a chance.

Sunderland were my certainties to go down at the start of the season, but they’ve got ‘Big Sam’ now. I’m not a gambling man, but now I’m not so certain about them going down.

If you look at Newcastle, they can raise themselves for big games, but can they do it on a regular basis? They hammered Norwich recently 6-2. But that could’ve been 15-9 to Norwich. That’s how bad it was.

Watford are resilient. They’re not going to score a lot of goals, but they’re not going to give away a lot either at the moment. They play decent football.

Right now there’s no one clear side where I could say 100 per cent they are going down. It’s a tough one to call. We’ll have to wait and see.

Paul Parker is Technical Director for JSSL Arsenal, Singapore’s No.1 Youth Soccer Club –