Tim Sherwood admitted his half-time team talk “wasn’t pretty” as Spurs overcame a dreadful first half performance to secure a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
The Spurs head coach was left gesticulating wildly at his players on the touchline during a frustrating 45 minutes that Palace dominated, and in which they squandered the opportunity to take the lead when Jason Puncheon missed his spot kick on seven minutes.
Sherwood admitted his team were second best in the opening periods but said he was pleased with the character shown by his players to turn their performance around and secure three points with goals from Christian Eriksen and Jermain Defoe.
He said: “We were taken a bit by surprise by Palace, with the amount of attacking options they had. They were very powerful in the wide areas and delivered a lot of balls into our box and we had to stand up to it.
“The only positive for me was that we came in at 0-0, but in the second half I thought we matched them for desire and effort and then our quality shone through.
“We got that early goal, which helped settle everyone down, and we could have scored a few more shortly after that. It looked like it might be a difficult one in the last ten minutes but then Jermain comes on and gives us a little breathing space so we’re grateful for that.”
Sherwood admitted he had some strong words for his players in the dressing room before they came out of the blocks at the start of the second half and took the lead through Eriksen.
He said: “It wasn’t pretty. I just told them it wasn’t up to the standard that’s required. I will take desire over ability all day long and unless they show the appetite to win football matches then the ability will never shine through.
“It’s easy when your team plays brilliantly from minute one to minute 90. It’s about showing the character when you’re not having things your own way. Can you roll up your sleeves in front of your home fans when they’re expecting you to do well? They did that and I’m proud of them for that second half.”
Jermain Defoe came off the bench to secure the win in the same week he agreed a permanent move to MLS side Toronto FC in February, but Sherwood remained insistent that Tottenham are not actively looking to replace the forward.
He said: “I’m not saying we won’t but at the moment we’re not looking to because we have different attacking options – we have Ade, Soldado.
“I think Lamela will play off the front, I think that will be his best position, Nacir (Chadli) could do that too and I think they’ve got goals in them.
“They (Lamela and Chadli) are having this settling in period so hopefully they’re more settled by the time Jermain leaves at the end of February so we don’t have to go into the market.
“He (Defoe) will score wherever he plays, in any league in the world. He’s a goalscorer and when he doesn’t score he gets the hump but he’s going to go home happy tonight.”
Nineteen-year-old Nabil Bentaleb put together a mature and assured performance alongside Dembele in the middle of the park against Palace in his first Premier League start, and Sherwood says the youngster is showing great promise.
He said: “I think he’s been great. I was sure about him but you never know until you put them on the stage and I think he’s shown he is unfazed.
“For me his performances are growing from week to week – he’s performing very well. He trains like every day is the last day in the world and that’s a great trait to have for a young kid.”