What does it mean to be a professional?
Spurs manager Tim Sherwood has come under criticism for his public shaming of a Tottenham side which most recently lost 4-0 to Chelsea and was described as “gutless.” He said ahead of their Europa League tie against Benfica:
“Anyone can get outplayed. What you cannot do is get outfought and out-desired and I do not want to see that happening again, that capitulation. I want the same desire and attitude from minute one to minute 95. I won’t tolerate anything less than that and the players know that now. I want players who want to play for the club and they’ve got between now and the end of the season to show that. I don’t think at any football club any player should be doing the club a favour by playing for them.
“It’s come to a stage where we have to start looking at pre-season. I’m the one planning it at the moment and looking at different personnel. The boys here have an opportunity to prove that they want to stay. If not, they’ll be moved on and we’ll look for replacements. I know the DNA of the guys and I know the ones I can trust and those I can’t.”
Match of the Day host Gary Lineker didn’t take long to put in his two cents:
There is no quicker way to lose the confidence and trust of your players than to slag them off publicly.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) March 12, 2014
Maybe everyone still remembers John Sitton’s infamous, foul-mouthed rant captured on film during his short stint at Leyton Orient. Or Sir Alex Ferguson’s propensity to leave player rows out of the media (but not out his autobiography). But I’m not sure Sherwood’s little public speech will make much of a difference one way or another, except to reveal that he clearly doesn’t think the issue is one of tactics, or preparation.
What I find remarkable though is Sandro’s response to his manager’s remarks. Far from playing into the notion of the egotist player unable to accept any public criticism from the manager, here we have a professional footballer:
“We always learn with every manager. That is what we have to do. Maybe some managers shout more than others. Villas-Boas, for example, liked to pull you aside and have a nice chat to you to explain things. But other managers are more vocal. As professional football players, we have to work with all managers and do our best for them and for us.”
In other words, we’ll work with whomever we have to. We will always try to do our best. Maybe everyone is doing their professional best and it’s not working, and because of that it’s gone on to affect the mood in the dressing room. Maybe ‘desire’ isn’t the issue, but something else, something deeper, something over and above Sherwood’s ability to fix.