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With or without FA Cup: Why Tim Sherwood will shake Aston Villa's 'tired' tag

COMMENT: With or without the FA Cup under his arm, there's one thing Aston Villa fans can expect from Tim Sherwood this summer market: he'll keep it local.

Before his departure from Tottenham last season, Sherwood handed chairman Daniel Levy a five-man shopping list. There were no wonderkids from Argentina. No exotic names from Spain or Italy.

Instead, Sherwood saw the need for local, proven Premier League experience. Three of the five names made it to the public arena: Winston Reid (West Ham United), Romelu Lukaku (Everton) and Gareth Barry (Everton). Good, solid, dependable performers with an excellent Premier League track record. Just the type of player Villa have been lacking.

Sherwood was convinced if he could add proven Premier League experience to complement the likes of Harry Kane, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb coming through, Spurs would be onto a winner.

Villa fans can expect a similar approach from Sherwood this summer market - and also towards the club's academy.

The current manager sees something in the youth system at Bodymoor Heath that predecessor Paul Lambert obviously couldn't. Jack Grealish's emergence is proof of that.

This time two years ago, Grealish was helping Villa win the final of the NextGen Series. Now he's set to start at Wembley in the FA Cup final.

And the midfielder will be no one-off.

Since the end of regular Football League season, Sherwood has had Gary Gardner and Joe Bennett, who had been away on-loan with Nottingham Forest and Brighton respectively, training with his first team squad. He wanted to get a close look at the pair before making any transfer decisions.

Indeed, one of the major disappointments for Sherwood since his appointment was the realisation that Daniel Johnson had been sold to Preston North End. Johnson was a former U21 captain at Villa and last week helped Preston win their League One promotion playoff at Wembley.

He only cost Preston £50,000, but was well known to Sherwood, who has since made it clear how disappointed he is seeing the free-scoring midfielder lost to the club.

The work of Villa's youth coaches is the best kept secret in the English game. Their success in the NextGen Series was no fluke. The problem was Villa's academy was basically producing talent for other clubs. But under Sherwood, attitudes are changing. It's difficult to imagine Arsenal ferrying away Dan Crowley if Sherwood had been in charge.

Only one English manager since 1995 has lifted the FA Cup - Harry Redknapp with Portsmouth in 2008. But Sherwood can end that drought on Saturday - and with still less than a year's managerial experience under his belt.

Roy Keane's description of Aston Villa as a "tired club" was spot on. It had become a 'tired' brand under Lambert - and Keane, himself.

But things will change with Sherwood in charge.

Just through the strength of his personality, Villa will demand better media coverage. Always great for a sound-bite and generous when discussing players, Sherwood will become a draw. And that's without considering what happens on the pitch.

Villa will reflect the personality of their manager. It will be heart-on-your-sleeve, do-or-die stuff. The performance in the FA Cup semifinal against Liverpool was a forerunner of things to come. Grealish was outstanding at the tip of Sherwood's midfield diamond. Fabian Delph hared around the Wembley pitch. And then there was bold, unexpected call to not only play Charles N'Zogbia, but to stick him wide right. Villa were exciting, audacious and Liverpool couldn't live with them. Arsenal have been warned.

Sherwood and Villa have found eachother. As much as the Londoner has been seeking the right 'project' he could truly embrace, Villa have also been crying out for a manager, a figurehead with the patter and personality to sweep through the club and shake it up.

Lambert, Alex McLeish, Gerard Houllier... it just hasn't been working at Villa Park. Sherwood offers a complete contrast. And for the first time in long while, offers Villa supporters genuine hope for the future.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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