How Sherwood has inspired Villa


Rigor mortis was setting in when he took over as manager, but now the muscles are being flexed. An FA Cup final awaits.

There have been mistakes, notably in defeats by Stoke and Swansea, but five wins and a brand of football to excite and embolden far outweighs them. Sherwood was appointed on Valentine’s Day and Villa fans have fallen in love after nine weeks.

Here, Sportsmail looks at five reasons for Sherwood’s success.

*Benteke’s back: Upon arrival, Sherwood recognised the area he needed to target instantly: goals. Hardly rocket science but launching Villa’s scoring figures skywards was easier said than done.Straightaway he sat down in his office with Christian Benteke and told the Belgian striker: ‘Two years ago, every club in Europe wanted you.’

The point being to re-inject confidence in this quiet character. Benteke is determined but responds well to encouraging words.At the end of his reign, Paul Lambert tried to inspire Benteke by dropping him for the visit of Chelsea.

Benteke understood, but was nevertheless frustrated. He felt starved of service in Lambert’s safety-first style.

Sherwood addressed this immediately.

During half-time in the FA Cup match against Leicester — the day before his unveiling — he entered the dressing room and told his players to get the ball to Benteke more often and quicker. Villa scored two second-half goals to progress.Benteke has now got nine in his last seven for Villa, having scored three in 18 under Lambert this season.

There is variety, pace and creativity in the final third and Villa have already surpassed under Sherwood the total goals managed with Lambert at the helm this season: 16 goals in 10 games, compared to 15 in 28.

*Trust in youth: For around an hour after carrying out media duties on Friday, Sherwood watched Villa’s Under 11s as they trained at Bodymoor Heath. The man for whom youth development is so important was able to find time on the eve of his biggest managerial test to observe a crop of potential talents who will only be senior players many years down the line.

That kind of commitment breeds belief across the training pitches. His faith in Jack Grealish is the biggest illustration of his philosophy, but he also handed Rushian Hepburn- Murphy his debut as a substitute at Aston Villa aged 16.

Since Sherwood’s arrival, the Under 21s have been moved to train on pitches adjacent to the first team and a number regularly join in with sessions when XI v XI, Kevin Toner, Lewis Kinsella and Riccardo Calder among them.

Sherwood went to the City Ground last Wednesday to witness 22-year-old Gary Gardner, on loan at Nottingham Forest from Villa, score a brilliant free-kick. The previous night he was at Rochdale v Swindon where Massimo Luongo, his Under 21 captain when at Tottenham, was playing for the away side.

Such an approach is with eyes on building the club over the coming months and years but short term it has served to bring renewed energy.

*Delph’s delivering: Fabian Delph signed his new contract at Villa before Sherwood arrived but the 25-year-old has since been handed key responsibilities.The England midfielder, described as Villa’s Hoover by Sherwood, was given the captain’s armband permanently, taking over from Ron Vlaar and leapfrogging deputy Gabby Agbonlahor, based on his mentality and exuberant grit in midfield.

He has led by example, turning in performances that make him a certainty for England boss Roy Hodgson.Sherwood has demanded more forward movement too, and offensive involvement.

Delph’s ability to drive past players — exhibited for both goals at Wembley — was compared to Paul Gascoigne by Sherwood and the Bradford-born player has responded to that acclaim.

He has two goals under Sherwood after not finding the net once this season for Lambert.

‘When I came to the club Fabian Delph had just signed a new contract, he had an opportunity to go to some of the teams in the top four. He showed a lot of loyalty,’ says Sherwood.

‘I need characters like that. He can add goals to his game, he has so much energy he can get into the final third and score. He’s nicked a couple already. I just want to encourage him to do that and then he’ll be too expensive for anyone to buy.’

*Sound staff moves: Sherwood acted swiftly to appoint his backroom staff, bringing in Mark Robson as first-team coach and Seamus Brady as performance analyst before his first game.

Tony Parks, former goalkeeping coach at Spurs, arrived in the days after the loss to Stoke. Parks is a trusted friend and vocal presence on the touchline, the one who bear-hugged Sherwood when Benteke rolled in the late penalty to beat West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.

Sherwood made a smart move for his assistant, offering Kevin McDonald the chance to return to Villa. The 54-year-old was the club’s hugely successful reserve-team boss and has developed younger players during a 17-year association that ended during the early days of Lambert’s reign in 2012.

He was also caretaker manager after Martin O’Neill left and nearly got the job permanently. ‘I wanted someone who knew the fabric of the club,’ says Sherwood.

Stiliyan Petrov has also been into the dressing room to offer words of advice, although he is yet to formalise any coaching arrangement.Training is sharp and intense, largely tailored to replicate matchdays and goalscoring situations.

*Inspiring confidence: Sherwood said after the victory over Liverpool that the players believed they would win and the fans did too, suggesting many had booked their hotels for the final on May 30.

Sherwood divides opinion with his outspoken comments but from within the club such positivity has spread to form a confident collective unit.

‘He sits and he chats to people. He treats people like men,’ says Parks. ‘The guys have responded to that.‘I don’t think that we’ll be frightened to tell them when they’ve not played well and I don’t think we’re frightened to say well done when they have played well. At the moment they’re in the groove, to be fair, and giving Tim everything he wants them to.’

Sherwood has also brought in a psychologist to help players get in the right frame of mind.

Parks says: ‘Tim knows a guy and from the outset he has been in speaking to the players. ‘It’s another way of building confidence. It’s not in your face or you’ve got to have it, you choose. It’s another option that Tim has given the players.’

Ron Vlaar has revealed that Tim Sherwood’s arrival has convinced him to contemplate staying at Villa when his contract expires this summer.It had appeared the Holland defender, 30, would leave at the end of the season, with both Manchester United and Southampton interested in signing him. But Sherwood’s appointment and Villa’s Cup run have given him plenty to consider.‘Yes, it is possible I will stay,’ said Vlaar. ‘Things have changed for me in the past few months.’ – Daily Mail

Original source: How Sherwood has inspired Villa