Jim Holden

English man­agers

World Soccer - - CONTENTS - Jim HOLDEN

Has the de­cline and fall of the English foot­ball man­ager reached its nadir? We can but hope so for a much-ma­ligned species of the world’s favourite sport.

It is a shame­ful re­al­ity that the Pre­mier League has never been won by an English man­ager in 26 years of ex­is­tence – and cer­tainly won’t be this sea­son.

Even more damn­ing, surely, is the fact that only four of the 20 bosses in Eng­land’s top di­vi­sion are English, with two of that quar­tet now vet­er­ans past their 70th birth­day.

Com­pare this to the Bun­desliga, where 14 of the 18 coaches are Ger­man. The fig­ure for lo­cals is 18 out of 20 in Serie A, in France it is 17 out of 20 in Ligue 1, while 15 of La Liga’s 20 top men are Span­ish.

This is how it should be: some out­side in­flu­ence and in­spi­ra­tion but with the ma­jor­ity pro­moted from within a na­tion’s own game.

So why are the statis­tics so grim in Eng­land? There are myr­iad ex­pla­na­tions, in­clud­ing the high per­cent­age of clubs with over­seas own­ers, the vast wealth that al­lows clubs to buy “rep­u­ta­tion”, and a strong el­e­ment of fash­ion and snob­bery.

A vi­cious cir­cle of con­tempt has de­vel­oped for English man­agers. More and more jobs filled by for­eign im­ports means less and less op­por­tu­nity for home-grown lead­ers.

The statis­tics them­selves are shame­ful; so is the wide­spread tol­er­ance of this in­sult­ing trend by fans, me­dia and play­ers. The cul­ture of the game has grown rot­ten in this re­gard, self re­spect crushed by greed.

Will it ever change? In­deed, can it ever change? Well, maybe, just maybe, there are glimpses of hope.

One of the few English man­agers in the Pre­mier League, Ed­die Howe, has in­spired min­nows Bournemouth to make a strong start this sea­son, play­ing at­trac­tive, or­gan­ised foot­ball with a squad of un­sung tal­ents.

In any other coun­try, his ac­com­plish­ments in tak­ing a tiny out­fit into the top flight for the first time in their his­tory and then keep­ing them up for at least four years would al­ready have earned him a ma­jor job.

Mau­r­izio Sarri, for ex­am­ple, had achieved less when in­vited to take charge of Napoli.

Howe should be at the top of the list when­ever Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, Arse­nal or Manch­ester United next de­cide to change their man­ager. But these clubs will al­most cer­tainly avoid foot­ball logic and in­stead heed the sound of de­ri­sion that would in­evitably fill the air­waves of ra­dio phone-ins and so­cial me­dia, amid the de­mand for a “big name”.

But why, you may ask, are Chelsea and Liver­pool not in­cluded on that list?

Well, there is good rea­son.

An­other cause for op­ti­mism about the English man­ager is the pos­i­tive start made by Frank Lam­pard in con­trol of team af­fairs at Derby County in the Cham­pi­onship. John Terry has also be­gun life in the dugout as an as­sis­tant boss at As­ton Villa. And that is where Chelsea are likely to look in the fu­ture.

A fur­ther ray of hope is the way Steven Ger­rard has taken like a duck to wa­ter in Glas­gow as the new man­ager at Rangers, which is no easy job for a novice. That is where Liver­pool will turn next.

We must hope that these young hope­fuls turn the tide of per­cep­tion to bring the English man­ager back into vogue.

It is pro­foundly un­true that Eng­land has no de­cent man­agers and coaches. The prob­lem for too long is that they have not been al­lowed op­por­tu­nity.

Maybe one route is for more to travel abroad and re­turn with a rep­u­ta­tion. That was the path taken by the un­her­alded Gra­ham Pot­ter, who per­formed mir­a­cles at Oster­sund in Swe­den and is now in the process of turn­ing round the for­tunes of Swansea City.

This pat­tern is work­ing for young play­ers such as Jadon San­cho and Ma­son Mount.

Per­haps the most telling ex­am­ple of the wind of change, though, is the rise of Gareth South­gate, who is as elo­quent and im­pres­sive as they come.

His ap­point­ment with Eng­land was ini­tially greeted with se­ri­ous scep­ti­cism, but he took his chance as na­tional man­ager and, with his quiet in­tel­li­gence, South­gate moulded a modern style of foot­ball that took his team to the World Cup semi-fi­nals and, more re­cently, a fa­mous away vic­tory against Spain.

Whis­per it very qui­etly, but it looks like the only way is up.

The Pre­mier League has never been won by an English man­ager in 26 years of ex­is­tence

Prom­ise...Derby County man­ager Frank Lam­pard (cen­tre) has made an im­pres­sive start to his new ca­reer

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