Given Tottenham Hotspur's tendency over the years to be linked with every household name available in the transfer market, it stood to reason that after sacking Andre Villas-Boas in December, the search for his replacement would spark an array of rumours linking some of the world's top managers with the vacancy at White Hart Lane.

Though Glenn Hoddle, Guus Hiddink and Fabio Capello were linked with the job, chairman Daniel Levy seemingly flipped the script and conducted a relatively low key process before giving interim boss Tim Sherwood an 18-month contract. After the Villas-Boas experiment fizzled out, it was a bold move to back Sherwood, who was among the Portuguese's coaching staff.

While some speculated that the appointment of Sherwood would all but end Tottenham's hopes of a top four finish, the opposite appears to be happening. The north Londoners have regrouped and are embracing Sherwood's style of play, featuring more pressing and more expansive football, and they are alive and kicking in the race for a Champions League spot as the season enters its final third.

A 5-1 thumping at the hands of Manchester City is the only major blot on Sherwood’s copybook since stepping into the role, with Tottenham amassing five wins and two draws from the other seven league games under the former midfielder. Crashing out of both cup competitions was met with disappointment, but it frees the club to focus on their Premier League and Europa League campaigns.

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The early signs were there – a 3-2 win at Southampton sparked by Emmanuel Adebayor – but Sherwood's personality and man-management are having a lasting effect. While the impressive 2-1 victory at Old Trafford against Manchester United on New Year’s Day is Exhibit A for the uplifting effect that Sherwood has had on his players, the importance of grinding out wins against Swansea and Stoke, in games where complacency could have kicked in, should not be underestimated.

The man himself, a former Tottenham player, is thriving on the pressure and embracing the challenge of proving the doubters wrong.

"I am realistic enough to know the ambitions of this club are very, very high and I need to live up to them", Sherwood said. "I knew that before I took the job, and I'm hoping I can do enough to keep the job in the long term.

"Of course I have to prove myself. A lot of people who have a lot more experience as managers would love to get the chance I have been given here and it is up to me to try and take it with both hands.

"I am loving the challenge of managing in the Premier League. It feels like I have been doing it for a lot longer than I have been. Those who told me I might have a few sleepless nights were right, but I want to be here and I want to bring success to this football club."

While Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea look to be in the title race for the long haul, Manchester United are still stumbling. Fourth place looks to be between Liverpool, Everton and Sherwood's Spurs.

The departure of Gareth Bale was always going to leave somewhat of a hangover – new players needed time to gel, a match-winning void needed to be filled and confidence took a hit once results started to slip. And Sherwood has sped that process along.

The new Tottenham boss has also helped to revive Adebayor's career in north London. The Togo striker's ability has never been in question but he fell out of favour under Villas-Boas. Sherwood has shown faith in Adebayor and has been rewarded with the striker grabbing doubles in wins over Southampton and Stoke.

The instinct to chase foreign managers can be seen throughout the Premier League, including the recent appointments of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Cardiff and Pepe Mel at West Brom. With that backdrop, Tottenham's decision to give a home-grown boss a shot is both refreshing and brave.

Sherwood, of course, knows first hand what it takes to win the Premier League after captaining Blackburn to the title in 1995. Though plotting the road to silverware is an entirely different battle as a manager, there is value in Sherwood's experience handling the pressure of chasing victories week in, week out and finding ways to win ugly.

Only time will tell whether Sherwood is capable of leading Tottenham towards their lofty targets and earning a contract beyond 2015. The Premier League has never been more competitive at the top and one look at Sherwood's squad confirms that, for all the obvious talent, he is at a disadvantage in the fight against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, in particular.

But Sherwood has never been a man to back away from a challenge, making Tottenham sneaky outsiders to gatecrash the top four party.

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