City legend Rosler wants to be a cult hero again
Once he was the darling of Maine Road. Now he's taking charge of Brentford. Nick Szczepanik meets the English Leagues' only German manager
Sunday 19 June 2011
It used to be that even the most illustrious former players would prepare for a second career in management by learning the ropes in the lower divisions. Bobby Moore was not above managing Southend United despite having captained England to a World Cup win, and a post-war goalscoring record did not prevent Brian Clough from starting outat Hartlepool.
Alan Shearer's record of one win and one relegation in eight games in charge of Newcastle United has not persuaded him to follow their lead, judging by his recent interest in the Cardiff City job. But although some ex-England players seem to consider Leagues One and Two beneath them, foreign-born former Premier League stars have been less reluctant to get their hands dirty in the lower divisions as preparation for managing higher up.
Uwe Rösler, the one-time cult hero of Manchester City, who has taken over at Brentford, is the latest.He follows Gus Poyet, who led Brighton to the League One title last season, and Paolo Di Canio, who has taken the managerial plunge at Swindon Town rather than waiting for a chance at his old stamping ground of West Ham United.
Like Poyet and Di Canio, Rösler got to know and love the English game, but retains enough of his outsider's perspective to bring a fresh element to club management. That made him a good fit for Matthew Benham, the Brentford owner, who runs SmartOdds, a company who forecast results based on statistical analysis of games worldwide.
Rösler agreed that some owners are looking for more than the usual journeyman retread who can boast knowledge of the division in question but little else – although he had to persuade Benham of his worth.
''Through his business, Matthew has a very good knowledge of football, in Europe as well as this country,and he wanted somebody who knows the English mentality but also can bring in something from the outside,'' Rösler said.
''I think that is the reason why Matthew had me on the shortlist at first. Then I had four or five interviews. It was a long process, but it was a good experience for me and I convinced him.''
Even though Rösler, 42, managed at Lillestrom, Viking and Molde in Norway, he was under no illusions that that experience would land him a job in Britain. ''I worked very hard and watched a lot of football in the lower leagues because, being real-istic, I could not expect to start at Championship level,'' he said.
''I felt Brentford was a good opportunity, an interesting club who look outside the box a little bit, which is why I think I came up on their radar. They have an ambitious owner and they are trying to bring in a model that I'm very comfortable with.''
As he did in Norway, Rösler will work under a sporting director, Mark Warburton. But it was the chance to get back into English football rather than a familiar management structure that attracted him. He moved his family from Norway last summer with no guarantee of work, and followed after the Norwegian season ended– networking, watching games and coaching strikers at ManchesterCity's academy.
''The choices were Germany or England,'' he said. ''We never lost touch with our friends in Manchester, and my love for the English game decided me. It's honest, you attack, it's open. In Germany at the time I left they had man-marking and a sweeper, [it was] very tactical and sometimes boring.''
Yet he would probably have stayed but for injuries that curtailed his chances at home and gave him the opportunity to move to Maine Road on trial in 1994. ''It was destiny a littlebit – I was meant to go to England,'' he said.
''If I had been fit I would have played Bundesliga. Niall Quinn was injured and City were looking for someone, so I came to the right place at theright time.''
City's fans loved Rösler's bustling style, and took his side rather than that of an unpopular manager when he fell out with Alan Ball and was dropped. A memorable goal against Manchester United helped, as didhis decision to stay on after Ball's team were relegated from thePremier League.
He attended the 1999 play-off final as a City fan, and the only disappointment about the Rösler legend is that the story that his grandfather once bombed Old Trafford is, he says, a fan-created myth.
Rösler was rewarded with a place in City's hall of fame, and, perhaps more importantly, by messages of support after a diagnosis of cancer ended his playing career in 2003. Once, after he had undergone a chemo-therapy session, a friend called him from a City match so that he could hear fans chanting his name.
''I survived with the help of my family, the condition I was in as a sportsman, and, I have to say, the help I got from England, especially the City supporters at the time, which was unbelievable. I'm very proud that I left something behind that people liked, and my connection to City will always bevery strong.''
Even though the character of the club, to outsiders, appears to have changed? ''I have to say the new owners are very interested in keeping the tradition and history of the club. They looked after my family when we moved over, helped us out with schools – after all these years and with a lot of people in charge who never saw me play.''
And now, even though he is concentrating on the new challenge at Brentford, he would still like to see as many of his former fans as possible: ''Every City supporter is welcome to Griffin Park,'' he said diplomatically. ''And it would be very good if they can give us some extra support when we're in the North-West.''
Fans see red over right-winger: Di Canio feeling the heat even before season starts
Uwe Rösler's grandfather may not have bombed Old Trafford while in Hitler's Luftwaffe, but another foreign manager's sympathy for one of the Axis leaders has caused controversy.
Paolo Di Canio openly admits to fascist leanings and an admiration for Mussolini, and was fined while with Lazio for giving a fascist salute after a derby victory over Roma. His appointment as the Swindon manager last month caused the GMB Union, who have an official anti-fascist policy, to end their sponsorship of the Wiltshire club, but while some fans have expressed concern that the club will be the object of Nazi salutes from rivals, message boards suggest that most are prepared to look the other way if the team win. The supporter David Squires is not even so sure about that, writing on WSC.co.uk last week that ''Di Canio has not been involved in English football since 2004, and would presumably struggle to recognise a League Two player if he trod on his jackboots."
But another warrior in the battle for football's moral core took a different view: "It could have been worse," he wrote. "At least it wasn't Ryan Giggs."
Overseers from overseas: England’s foreign legion of bosses
Arsenal: Arsène Wenger (France) 1996–present. The standard-bearer.
Brentford: Uwe Rösler (Germany) 2011–present. Latest to try his luck.
Brighton: Gus Poyet (Uruguay) 2009–present. Premier League calibre.
Burton Albion: Paul Peschisolido (Canada) 2009–present. Started in Ireland.
Fulham: Martin Jol 2011–present. Sacked by Spurs.
Leicester City: Sven-Goran Eriksson (Sweden) 2010–present. Third English club.
Manchester City: Roberto Mancini (Italy) 2009–present. His most high-profile club.
Swindon: Paolo Di Canio (Italy) 2011–present. Controversial choice.
Wigan: Roberto Martinez (Spain)2009–present. Refused Villa job.
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