Football: The Guy who would never do a Graham

Andrew Warshaw talks to continental coaches about the morality of moving
Click to follow
The Independent Online
GUY ROUX knows all about loyalty. He has, after all, been with the same football club, Auxerre, for 37 years, making him the longest serving manager in Europe. Roux, who celebrates his 60th birthday next Sunday, has had many tempting offers to leave the homely club a couple of hours' drive south-east of Paris which he joined back in 1961. Only a few months ago, he was approached by the French federation to replace Aime Jacquet after the World Cup.

After consultation with his president, Roux turned the job down; he had another two years left on his contract. As president of the French coaches' union, jumping ship halfway through his term of office would not have gone down well with his colleagues. Which is why Roux cannot understand how Leeds United have let George Graham go to Tottenham Hotspur. "To me, this is bizarre in the extreme," said Roux.

"I believe if you start a job in coaching, you should finish it. If Leeds accepted compensation, it's hard to shed too many tears for them. But there's an ethical question as well. Coaches should show an example. It's too bad the English allow this sort of thing."

They allow it in France as well, legally at least, but it rarely happens. Roux cannot recall a similar case occurring since he has been in the game. "If a coach is fired, that's different. But leaving one club to go to another when you are already in a top job? I couldn't condone that."

Nor could clubs in Spain or Italy where, unlike here, there are strict laws preventing manager-poaching. "An agreement is an agreement," said Luis Uranga, president of Spanish First Division club Real Sociedad. "We simply do not allow this in the same season."

While he acknowledged that Leeds and Spurs have acted honourably in the transfer, which is what it effectively is, of Graham, Uranga was concerned about the general concept of manager poaching.

"My reasons are obvious. A coach could easily cheat his way into another club by deliberately under-performing and persuading his board to let him go, only to succeed when he gets to his new club."

Uranga, who once employed John Toshack, was not for one moment questioning the integrity of Graham, who performed a near-miracle at Leeds. But he did question Graham's motivation for leaving. "He says he misses London but is that enough to change club? Leeds and London are not that far apart as far as I know."

The Italian league has similar laws preventing fully employed managers from switching clubs in the same season. "The Graham situation could not have happened here," said Luca Corsolini of Bologna. "If you want to change club, you can only do so at the end of the season. It's a rule that everyone accepts."

Corsolini subscribed to the view that coaches represent a different type of investment to players and therefore should be treated differently. "To be a coach you have to have a specific set of qualifications. You create a long-term strategy around which a club's philosophy is built," he said. "You can't simply take off one uniform and put another one on whenever you feel like it. It's not the same with players. They score goals but they don't determine team tactics."

In Holland and Germany, the rules are less strict. Provided the two clubs agree and the correct financial procedures are followed, coaches are free to change clubs in the same season. The fact that they rarely do is an indication, however, of the extent to which the practice is frowned upon.

Until Graham left for Spurs, the main loyalty debate raging through football board rooms concerned not coaches, but players. The Pierre van Hooijdonk case ("I don't want to play for you, so I will go on strike until you sell me") and the stance of other would-be movers has been condemned as a cancer in the game.

However successful Graham is at White Hart Lane, his move south has effectively gagged his managerial colleagues from speaking out about lack of loyalty among players without risking the charge of hypocrisy.