Tim Sherwood believes he has not been given the recognition he deserves for keeping Tottenham Hotspur in contention for Champions League qualification this season. Spurs' campaign seemed in danger of being derailed in mid-December when, with the club in seventh place and struggling to find fluency on the pitch, André Villas-Boas was ousted as manager and Sherwood was promoted in his place.
The 45-year-old had never managed before but has won nine of 16 matches in charge and cultivated a more enterprising style of play that has found favour with players and fans. Spurs are now fifth in the table and, even though they remain the same number of points from fourth place as they were when Villas-Boas left, the mood around White Hart Lane seems more positive. Yet Sherwood senses a reluctance to praise him for the job done so far.
"People have been waiting for us to fail and lose some games," he said. "I just think the perception is you cannot be a rookie manager and come in and be that good."
Although Sherwood signed an 18-month contract when he took over, there are regular reports linking other managers with a summer move to Tottenham, with the Dutchmen Ronald de Boer and Louis van Gaal among those alluding to contact between them and Spurs. "I can't do anything about that," said Sherwood. "I just have to carry on with my job, which is what I am doing at the moment. You listen to it and it is disappointing because I never tout myself for anyone's job while someone else is in it."
Sherwood believes that being parachuted into an emergency has prevented him from moulding a team in his own image but says that, given time, he will make this team evolve. He contrasts his desired approach with the method of operation of his next opponent, José Mourinho. "He's probably a different manager to how I would want to manage. Mourinho, as he has proved, goes into a club, gets backed by the chairman and buys the players to win instantly. I would see myself as more of a manager who builds something over time but I realise at the moment that is not possible because I have been dealt a hand here and I have to try to win games. I'm going from game to game to try to keep myself in a job.
"If you said to me 'does that team we've got out at the moment play the way Tim Sherwood wants to play?' No, but I can't do anything about that. There's variations on that and you see it in glimpses, you see the contrast to the way that André plays to the way I want to play but it's not 100% how I want to play. At the moment it's a balancing act and hopefully I will get an opportunity to bring my players in and build something for the future after the season finishes."
March could be a defining month for Tottenham's season and, therefore, for Sherwood's long-term employment prospects, as they face Premier League games against Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool as well as a two-legged Europa League quarter-final against Benfica.
"We're not frightened by it, we're looking forward to it," said Sherwood. "We've got players who want to play in big games and they don't get bigger than these." Sherwood said he has devised a plan for the trip to Stamford Bridgeon Saturday, where Spurs have not won for 24 years: "We will respect them and park the bus ... but the doors will be open."