Sam Wallace: David Moyes deserves his shot at Manchester United and has changed the game for British managers

The elite game in England has largely talked itself out of promoting local managers

When David Moyes walks into the hall at Old Billingsgate in the City of London a week today, at the League Managers’ Association awards dinner, his status among his peers, the vast majority of them British and working in the Football League, will already have been transformed.

Not just that he is the new manager of Manchester United but something more than that. A manager who has been given what every one of his fellow managers craves as they consider the hierarchy above them – which is to say a chance, an opportunity, a shot at the big time.

There is no denying Moyes’ talent and his sheer bloody determination to pull Everton up, an incremental improvement year after year. They defied their modest net spend on transfers and, in doing so, they defied the brutal financial logic of modern English football and much of that they owed to Moyes’ endeavour.

But even the great managers need an opportunity. Sir Alex Ferguson needed one when he was appointed by Aberdeen in 1978, having previously been sacked by St Mirren. Arsène Wenger needed one when he was relegated with Nancy from the French championship in 1987. Rafa Benitez needed one after he won promotion from Spain’s second division in 1998 with Extremadura and then went straight back down.

In English football, we have become so accustomed to writing off British managers or fretting over their perceived lack of big club experience that the elite game has largely talked itself out of promoting them. It was for that reason that United’s appointment of Moyes last week was such a welcome parting of the clouds over the native coaching fraternity.

It has got to the stage now where the careers of British managers have, on the whole, hit a glass ceiling, that Manchester City will have argued that there was no British option as they prepared to sack Roberto Mancini. With foreign owners and now, at City, foreign executives, they have little chance. Too many are not given the second and third chances that their European peers are routinely handed.

Since Moyes took Everton to that fourth-place finish in 2005, a feat unequalled by any manager working to a similar budget, Chelsea, for example, have appointed six managers, including Avram Grant, and not once do they appear to have considered Moyes. The assumption is that, for the big jobs, the overseas manager is simply a better option.

Yet in countries like Spain, France and Portugal, opportunity for young managers abounds. They give their brightest young coaches good jobs, and when they fail they give them another. After Wenger was relegated with Nancy he was immediately appointed by Monaco in the top flight. Within 12 years of his first day in the Nancy manager’s office, he was moving into Highbury.

For Moyes, it has been 15 years since he took charge of Preston North End in what is now League One and yet, incredibly, there are still those who wonder whether the job has come too soon. He might never have won a trophy at Everton – these days, very few do – but then he has never been relegated or sacked.

Benitez was sacked twice in his early managerial days. In his first job at Valladolid, he was sacked to make way for a coach who eventually saved them from relegation. At Osasuna he was sacked after seven games. In the authorised biography written by a friend of his, Benitez is said to have feared a third sacking “could doom him to obscurity”.

Instead, he got his break. A promotion with Extremadura and then, after they were relegated, another with Tenerife earned him the job at Valencia. And it was not as if Benitez, just out the Segunda Division, was being handed any old club. The previous season, Valencia had finished fifth, missing out on Champions League qualification on goal difference.

Of course, when it comes to giving young managers a break, there is nowhere quite like Portugal. As a virtually unknown translator and then assistant coach, Jose Mourinho gained his first managerial job in charge of Benfica, the club with the most league titles in Portuguese history. Andre Villas-Boas had managed for just seven months at Academica Coimbra when he was given the Porto job.

To put the scale of that opportunity in perspective, when Villas-Boas was given the Porto job they had been champions of Portugal in six of the previous eight seasons. His entire managerial experience comprised of steering a club that was bottom in October 2009 to 11th the following May. It would be the rough equivalent of United appointing Mauricio Pochettino this summer, although Pochettino is much more experienced as a manager than Villas-Boas was in 2010.

Aidy Boothroyd, for example, was just 35 when his Watford team were promoted to the Premier League. Like Benitez, 38 when he took Extremadura up to Spain’s Primera Liga, Boothroyd’s Watford lasted only one season in the top flight. Yet when he was finally sacked by the club in November 2008, Boothroyd’s next job was a step down at Colchester United in League One.

Seven years on from Watford’s play-off final victory, Boothroyd is back at Wembley on Saturday. Having dragged Northampton Town up from the foot of League Two, he takes them into the play-off final against Bradford City for a place in League One.

Boothroyd is a capable, talented coach. But seven years after he was promoted to the Premier League, then its youngest-ever manager, he is obliged to fight his way up from three divisions down. A glance at the CVs of many of the foreign managers at our elite clubs will tell you that their ride to the top of the game was smoother.

What United have done with the appointment of Moyes is look beyond the currency of trophies and seen the wider picture of a manager’s career: the upward trajectory, the innate qualities and, yes, the promise. While, as ever, there are no certainties of success, the rationale is sound.

For an ambitious manager operating to the maximum of his abilities, the opportunity afforded to Moyes is something to be prized. The reason it feels like a surprise – a surprise that we are not preparing for the coronation of Mourinho, or Jürgen Klopp – is because top English clubs had previously given up on British managers for far too long.

What can Wenger make of his Arsenal longevity?

Arsène Wenger is proving that if you hang around long enough the landscape changes around you. By the time the new season starts, Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini will have gone; there will be a new man at Chelsea. Jupp Heynckes is leaving Bayern Munich too and the likelihood is that Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid will have new managers. It is undeniably an advantage; Wenger just has to figure out how to make it count.

Fans’ abuse of Terry adds insult to injury

Whatever the feelings that rival clubs have about John Terry – and they seem to run strong – it still feels wrong that a player who is clearly badly injured is abused by the support while he is on the ground and then when his leg is strapped into a brace. As his long-standing team-mate Frank Lampard was carried shoulder high at the end, Terry’s feelings must have been at the opposite end of the scale. Has he played his last game for Chelsea?

Suggested Topics
News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home