English managers are becoming poor relations of the top flight

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The Weekend Dossier

A variety of candidates were suggested as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor when his retirement was revealed this week. None was English. The parlous status of English managers will be illustrated again at Wembley when Roberto lifts the Cup.

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Whether it is Mancini or Martinez who is victorious, the final whistle will signal an astonishing statistic. Of 70 trophies won in the Premier League era by English clubs, at home and abroad, only six will have been won under an English manager. Just two of those have been in the 21st century: Steve McClaren’s Football League Cup success with Middlesbrough in 2004 and Portsmouth’s FA Cup triumph of 2008 under Harry Redknapp.

The last English championship winner was Howard Wilkinson, who steered Leeds United to the final title before the Premier League began, in 1991-92. The last English manager to win a European trophy was Bobby Robson, whose Barcelona team won the European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1997 (the last to do so with an English club was Howard Kendall, in the same competition, with Everton in 1985).

Manchester United’s dominance under Ferguson is obviously one reason for this, but 17 (18 if Wigan win today) other non-English managers will have won 42 trophies between them to England’s half-dozen.

The situation is unlikely to improve soon, and not just because David Moyes is maintaining the Scottish accent at Old Trafford. If neither Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace nor Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City come up, the only English managers in the top flight next season will be Sam Allardyce (West Ham), Alan Pardew (Newcastle United) and Steve Bruce, of newly promoted Hull City – and that assumes Newcastle both stay up and keep faith in Pardew. Norwich City’s Chris Hughton was born and raised in London, but was capped 53 times by the Republic of Ireland.

Compare this to the inaugural season of the Premier League,  which ended with 16 clubs in the  then 22-club division managed by Englishmen. There were also four Scots, a Welshman (Mike Walker at Norwich) and Dubliner Joe Kinnear at Wimbledon. 

Prior to this, the one experiment with a foreign manager was the Czech Joe Venglos at Aston Villa, but that was short-lived. Ossie Ardiles had managed Newcastle in the second division and was then briefly manager of Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League but that did not work out either. Besides, the Argentine Ardiles was widely regarded as Anglicised. The modern trend really began with Arsenal’s appointment of Arsène Wenger in 1996. The Frenchman revolutionised the English game with his emphasis on more scientific training methods and diet and his success made clubs more inclined to look overseas.

This was accelerated by the globalisation of the Premier League from dressing room to boardroom. Foreign owners thought nothing of bringing in managers from overseas while Wenger’s ability to bring in  low-priced, high-class Frenchmen highlighted the advantage of having a manager with an intimate knowledge of overseas players. This remains a factor – witness Michael Laudrup’s shrewd acquisitions from La Liga – and it is telling that while Newcastle have an English manager their transfer policy is dictated by a scout (albeit an English one) with good connections in France.

One curiosity is that while English managers are increasingly scarce in the top flight, Scottish managers retain a significant presence, as underlined by Moyes’ appointment.  With Cardiff’s Malky Mackay coming up, there may well be more Scots than Englishmen managing in  the Premier League next season. 

The success of Scottish coaches is often ascribed to a work ethic and the quality of coach education there. However, one would imagine these factors ought to result in Scotland also producing more players capable of performing in the Premier League. The difference is the Ferguson factor. As a role model, an informal mentor, and even through the occasional recommendation to chairmen, Ferguson has helped many compatriots progress. 

The lack of English managers in the top flight is worrying for the Football Association. Not only are foreign managers more likely to buy, and play, foreign players – thereby reducing opportunities for English players – their preponderance reduces the FA’s own options when making an appointment.

Such is the monopolisation of the top jobs by non-English managers  that only five Englishmen have ever managed in the Champions League and two of them (Robson and Ray Harford) are dead. The others are Redknapp, McClaren and the  Anglo-Scot Stuart Baxter, the latter two with foreign clubs.

The FA hopes housing and enhancing coach education at the National Football Centre will eventually produce better English coaches, but losing the likes of Jamie Carragher, Gareth Southgate and Gary Neville to punditry is not encouraging. There are promising English managers, but their experience is slight. Certainly there seems little prospect of Everton dipping into the Championship, as they once did for Moyes, to hire Chris Powell, Lee Clark, Sean Dyche or Nigel Clough.

This shortage of native managers will be a problem when the FA seeks a successor to Roy Hodgson. This ought not be until Euro 2016 at the earliest, but were England to fail to reach Brazil 2014 the FA would almost certainly cave in to the clamour for change. Suddenly Allardyce, Pardew or Bruce would be in pole position.

Or perhaps the FA would investigate whether a manager who groomed several members of the England team, and has vast Champions League experience, could be tempted out of retirement.

England’s global dug-out winners 1992-2013

Premier League:

Scotland: Sir Alex Ferguson (13), Kenny Dalglish

Italy: Carlo Ancelotti,  Roberto Mancini

France: Arsène Wenger (3)

Portugal: Jose Mourinho (2)

FA Cup:

Italy: Gianluca Vialli, Ancelotti, Roberto Di Matteo, Mancini

Scotland: Ferguson (4), George Graham

France: Wenger (4), Gerard Houllier

England: Joe Royle, Harry Redknapp

Netherlands: Ruud Gullit,  Guus Hiddink

Portugal: Mourinho

Spain: Rafael Benitez

Football League Cup:

Scotland: Ferguson (3), Graham (2), Graeme Souness, Alex McLeish, Dalglish

England: Ron Atkinson, Roy Evans, Brian Little, Steve McClaren

Portugal: Mourinho (2)

France: Houllier (2)

N Ireland: Martin  O’Neill (2)

Italy: Vialli

Spain: Juande Ramos

Denmark: Michael Laudrup

European honours(with English clubs):

Scotland: Ferguson (2), Graham

Italy: Vialli, Di Matteo

France: Houllier

Spain: Benitez

Five Asides

1. Let’s cool the pop music and abide with tradition please

In an era when dozens of football matches are broadcast every week and the Champions League is pre-eminent, the FA Cup final has inevitably lost some of its lustre, but it remains a special day in the calendar and its rituals should be cherished. One of these is the singing of “Abide With Me”.  There have been some diabolical renditions at Wembley over the years with Cliff Richard in 1997 perhaps the nadir. So a plea to Amore, who will lead the singing of Henry Francis Lyte’s hymn today: Don’t try to be clever, edgy or different; traditional is perfect. And here’s hoping the fans are then able to spontaneously sing their own songs, not be deafened by inanities and pop music.  

2. Why a Liverpool TV pundit will never talk alone

With Jamie Carragher joining Sky and BT signing up David James, Steve McManaman and Michael Owen, the domination of punditry by ex-Liverpool players appears complete. Will this add or decrease the pressure on Brendan Rodgers next season? The latter if he could play them, for they would make a decent XI: James; Carragher, Hansen, Thompson, Beglin; McManaman, Lawrenson, Souness, Barnes; Keegan, Owen. Sub: Redknapp.

3. Babb starts managerial  life in the lower reaches

It is not often a player of Phil Babb’s experience begins his management career in non-League but the former Coventry and Liverpool defender is following the path taken by Martin O’Neill, Ron Atkinson and Neil Warnock by starting out at Conference club Hayes & Yeading. Good luck to him.

4. Women’s game ready to kop a new Super power

Arsenal 0, Liverpool 4. An eyebrow-raising result in any context but especially in the FA Women’s Super League. Arsenal have been the dominant ladies team for many years but Liverpool have invested heavily this season and Tuesday’s victory at the Emirates suggests a new power may be emerging. The FA, keen for the league to be competitive, will be delighted.

5. Two teams that don’t know the meaning of defeat 

For one team to be undefeated  through a league season is rare, for two to do it is surely unique. Yet if Porto and Benfica draw tonight the Portuguese giants will both go into next week’s final fixtures unbeaten after 29 games. Porto, two points behind, must win to have a chance of retaining their title.

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