Pitchside Europe

Adebayor repays Sherwood’s faith with masterful performance

Emmanuel Adebayor is an emotional sort of chap.

Whether falling out with Monaco, incurring the wrath of the Arsenal fans or rubbing coaching automaton Andre Villas-Boas up the wrong way, the soap opera is never far from the big Togolese, and his at times head-scratching comments certainly make good copy for the press.

Emotion is something English fans demand from their players, but any hint of that personality extending beyond the rigid boundaries of ‘giving your all on the pitch’ and suddenly we’re up in arms. You can’t have it all – if you want a league full of Gareth Barrys, you have to accept, er, Gareth Barry.

There is a perceived wisdom that Adebayor plays well when his contract is running out and, once he gets a bumper new deal, slackens somewhat and just lets the cash roll in. Kerching.

That much of this cash goes to his foundations for impoverished Africans largely washes over the heads of the masses; that Adebayor’s traumatic life experiences – including surviving a terrorist shooting that claimed the lives of his friends, and losing his brother – would spiral most of us into a vicious cycle of drink and depression also washes over us. Why should he care when he is so rich, we ask?

Such a false logic is easily unwound – most of us are not rich, yet most of us are happy. Happiness and wealth are not really linked, and why should they be when all you really need is a roof and some fava beans? Indeed, the pressure and demands of a high profile, public job can be too much for some. Most of us wouldn’t be able to hack it.

And who cares how much he is paid? He hasn’t held anyone to ransom, Rooney-style, and he’s not on anything close to the money others are on.

Emotional as he is, Adebayor is an excellent player. Tall, strong, quick, with excellent feet and bravery in the air and on the deck, he should really be playing for one of Europe’s top clubs. Spurs may yet join that club, but – when properly managed – he could turn out for anyone and indeed played rather well at times during his spell with Real Madrid.

The key here is “when properly managed”. In all walks of life, different people flourish under different styles of management.

Those reading this who have worked in teams will know there is usually a mix of characters. Some thrive with discipline, some prefer a more relaxed, trusting approach; some like to be left alone to get on with the task in hand, some value communication, an arm around the shoulder, encouragement. It does not require any science to work out which category Adebayor falls into.

At the various points in his career where Adebayor has appeared to lose interest, he has not been receiving encouragement. Either he has felt unloved by fans (and Arsenal’s are known to be fickle), or by his managers (Manchester City cast him aside despite an impressive start to life at the club; Andre Villas-Boas treated him like a pariah following the premature death of his brother).

Which leads to AVB, who does not appear to be a good man-manager. I say ‘appear’ because I have never worked with him and cannot form a conclusion on hearsay and circumstantial evidence. But it does appear that – in his time at Chelsea and Spurs – he rubbed players up the wrong way, left them confused as to their status and roles, and by all accounts was pretty unsympathetic when Adebayor suffered bereavement.

Adebayor’s bizarre ostracism by AVB could well have been terminal, career wise. In January he was linked with moves to the Middle East, MLS and (gulp) Fulham. Who knows what the future would have held.

But Tim Sherwood kept faith, gave him another chance and – as touched on earlier – put an arm around him, gave him responsibility, treated him like a senior player.

And boy how has Adebayor responded, hitting 11 goals in 15 matches including two fine finishes against Dnipro, finishes that took Spurs from the brink of a shock exit into the next round.

His goals – the second, with a touch off the chest and volley past the keeper a joy to behold, may well have kept Sherwood in employment, with trigger-happy chairman Daniel Levy no doubt rubbing his hands in glee when the Ukrainians took a shock lead with what appeared to be a game-winning away goal.

Levy rushed into Sherwood’s appointment after sacking Villas-Boas, one presumes because – like most of the players – he did not get one with the tautology-loving Portuguese. It became apparent quite quickly that Spurs are a pretty big draw, and you could sense Levy was itching to move on, despite having given Sherwood an 18-month contract.

Much of the scepticism surrounding Sherwood’s new career choice emanates from a suspicion of a perceived ‘up and at ‘em’ style of basic management, which we infer from his relative inarticulacy in interview, and a somewhat traditional tactical set-up.

This, perhaps, is unfair, but with image and presentation hugely important in modern football, Sherwood may elicit more sympathy if he improves his public speaking.

With the likes Louis van Gaal lying in wait, Sherwood is learning his trade under unprecedented pressure. And he will need Adebayor to continue to repay his faith if he is to remain as Spurs boss.

Reda Maher - on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport