Tim Sherwood hailed Roberto Soldado, Tottenham’s match-winner on Sunday, as ‘world class’ following Spurs’ 1-0 win over Cardiff at White Hart Lane.
The £26 million summer signing from Valencia scored his first goal in nine games, tucking a way a pass from strike partner Emmanuel Adebayor after a swift counterattack in the first half.
The win keeps Spurs in the hunt for a top-four place - they trail Capital One Cup winners Manchester City by four points now - and Sherwood praised the forward who has come under intense scrutiny in a difficult debut campaign.
Sherwood said: “Delighted for Robbie [Soldado]. You saw the way the lads celebrated with him and how much it means, he’s great character around the place, the boys love him and want him to do well like I do.
“I would look at history with Robbie, he’s not done it in the Premier League but he has in a very top league in Spain, you know what he’s capable of. But if he wasn’t showing desire in training or any belief he could turn it around I’d leave him out. He’s not given me any reason to, I’ve stuck by him and believed he’ll come good.
“I just hope it’s a platform for him to go on and score 20 goals between now and the end of the season.”
The picture Sherwood painted was of a popular and colourful character around the dressing room, labelling the 28-year-old a “true professional” for his application on the training ground.
“He speaks enough English to have good banter,” Sherwood added. “He’s a very humorous guy around the place - never a moment’s trouble, he’s a true professional. He gets on with his training, he wants to do it and improve. Knows he’s been in a sticky spell but I’ve looked him in the eye and know that he had the belief more than me… as well as me, to get him out of it.”
The goal takes the Spaniard to 11 in all competitions for Spurs and his manager emphasised the quality of the strike that beat David Marshall before praising third-choice forward Harry Kane.
He added: “It was a good finish, he had a lot to do. Ade laid it into his path but he still took it on the run, needed tight control to roll it past the goalkeeper. He didn’t have much time to think about it which is probably great.
“We’re looking forward to them [Soldado & Adebayor] building a bit of confidence but I must say Harry Kane’s been brilliant. Since he’s been back he’s been fantastic in training. He’s had to be very patient. If I was him I’d be banging my door down every day but he’s respectful enough to know we have world class strikers.
“Soldado and Adebayor are world class. He’ll get his time but it must be very frustrating to not get as much football as you’d like.”
Tottenham’s next fixture is a daunting trip to league leaders Chelsea but Sherwood believes there is no reason to be fearful, instead suggesting that the relaxed expectations may improve his side’s chances.
“When the expectation is not with you it sometimes makes it a little bit easier. Certainly those games against Chelsea at the Bridge, Arsenal and Liverpool at Anfield…perhaps the pressure is off us a little bit and cause a surprise. We’re looking to mess as many people’s seasons up as we can and enhance as ours as much as we can.
“I’m a perfectionist…we weren’t great. When you calm down a little bit, you look at the fact our record has been so poor after the Europa League games, to get over the line and get three points and win ugly is very important.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked back at the 90 minutes with a tinge of regret, pointing to an impressive opening spell that had Tottenham on the back foot.
He told reporters: “We caused them massive problems on the counterattack at times. I’m pleased with the team effort, we looked like a team again and one that plays for each other but we need to score goals. We need that luck - Steven hitting the bar was unlucky, he was magnificent.
Despite a positive display, Solskjaer has overseen an attack that hasn’t scored for four matches.
He said: “If you want to win games, you need to score goals. Now it’s about that dedication and urge to get on the end of crosses. You can’t blame luck but I think we’re due some soon.”
The Norwegian also revealed the club’s chairman Vincent Tan paid the team a visit on Saturday evening, insisting that it was further proof that the club needed to show a united front as they fight to stave off relegation.
“Vincent Tan saw us last night and gave some encouraging words to the players and myself,” Solskjaer said. “His support is great. We’re all sticking together, it’s about team work. It’s about a 10 game run, a 10 game season to get enough points to get out of this.”