Christian Eriksen deflected some of the spotlight away from Tottenham Hotspur manager Tim Sherwood with two assists and a goal in his side’s 5-1 hammering of relegation-haunted Sunderland in the Premier League on Monday.
With reports suggesting Sherwood’s job was in danger after recent woeful performances, Spurs responded in style, recovering to sweep aside a demoralized Sunderland, who remain rooted to the bottom of the table.
Emmanuel Adebayor scored twice, with Harry Kane also on target at White Hart Lane, but it was Denmark’s Eriksen who was instrumental in reviving Tottenham’s flickering hopes of finishing in the top four.
The victory lifted Tottenham back above Manchester United into sixth place, although they remain five points behind fourth-placed Arsenal with five matches remaining and four behind Everton, who also have a game in hand.
“I would rather talk about the game,” Sherwood, who was given an 18-month contract last year when he stepped up from coaching the under-18s to replace Andre Villas-Boas, told Sky Sports.
The channel had earlier suggested he would go at the end of the season.
“I can’t comment on anything regarding my employment to be honest, you’ll have to ask my employers about that, but as far as I’m concerned I set the team out well tonight and we outplayed Sunderland and done the job well tonight,” he said. “We’ve got five games left and we believe we can win all five, and we don’t know where that could take us.”
Sunderland were gifted a 17th-minute lead when Lee Cattermole shot home his first goal for the club in four years after a defensive mix-up involving Hugo Lloris and Vlad Chiriches.
The goal briefly raised hopes they could begin a great escape, but by the end of the game the northeast side looked resigned to their fate, seven points behind fourth-from-bottom Norwich City, albeit with two games in hand.
With Eriksen pulling the strings in midfield, the hosts responded through Adebayor’s bundling in the Dane’s cross after 28 minutes to send the sides level at halftime.
Kane put Tottenham ahead on the hour, stealing in to convert another lethal Eriksen delivery before the Danish striker made the points safe with a shot that deflected off Phil Bardsley past Vito Mannone.
Former England and Spurs midfielder Sherwood was his usual animated self on the touchline and did not have the look of a who about to lose his job, particularly when Adebayor and substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson gave the scoreline a healthy glow with late goals.
“No matter what happens to the manager I respect him, I’m very happy to be back on the pitch scoring goals,” said Adebayor, reintegrated into the side by Sherwood after being banished by Villas-Boas. “He has been a big part of my life, when everyone forgot me he brought me back in and gave me my life back.”
Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal has been linked in the media to the Tottenham job in recent weeks after thrashings against Chelsea and Liverpool in quick succession seemed to have scuppered the London side’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.
However, the club on Monday dismissed reports that Sherwood was leaving as speculation.