There is no foolproof recipe for the perfect Premier League manager

The Weekend Dossier: Those who had to work at their game are more able to coach than naturals

As Ellis Short sifts through the CVs of those managers in contention to replace Paolo Di Canio he will be painfully aware that appointing a new boss is an inexact science. This is his fourth attempt and, if handing Di Canio a long-term deal always seemed high-risk, his previous two choices were sensible ones. Steve Bruce and Martin O’Neill had both compiled a decent body of work at a variety of clubs. Bruce’s subsequent success at Hull City only serves to confirm he was a logical choice, even if it did not work out for him at the Stadium of Light.

If Short sought enlightenment from studying the selections of his fellow owners, he will have finished the exercise more confused than ever. The one thing the managers of the other 19 Premier League clubs have in common is that none is in his first job, but that is hardly surprising given the demands of managing a modern top-flight club.

There are few other patterns. Some, like Steve Clarke and Chris Hughton, began as assistant managers or coaches and, having served their apprenticeship, moved into the decision-making seat. Several have done it the traditional way, working their way up from small clubs step by step. Paul Lambert (Livingston-Wycombe-Colchester-Norwich-Aston Villa) is the classic example though David Moyes (Preston), Ian Holloway (Bristol Rovers) and Sam Allardyce (Limerick) are among others to have begun at moderate stations. The bosses from abroad have mostly followed similar career paths.

The clear exception is Mark Hughes, who began his management career in the international arena, with Wales. Hughes is unusual in another, more surprising sense. He had a stellar playing career. This is relatively rare among top managers. Of the Premier League bosses just under half were internationals and only three played in a World Cup finals: Lambert, Mauricio Pochettino and Michael Laudrup. Lambert and Laudrup are the only two to have played in a Champions League or European Cup final, with Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona respectively.

The two men to have managed in the Champions League final, by contrast, would never have got anywhere near it in their playing days. Arsène Wenger had a moderate career in France while Jose Mourinho played a handful of games in the Portuguese second division. His opponent today, Andre Villas-Boas, did not play professionally at all while a knee injury meant Brendan Rodgers’ professional career was over almost before it had begun. Indeed, with Roberto Martinez and David Moyes spending most of their time in England’s lower divisions, of the current managers of the clubs who made up the top seven last season only one, Chilean international Manuel Pellegrini, could be said to have had a significant playing career.

What most of these men have in common is an acceptance at an early age that they would not make the highest level as a player, and a subsequent interest in coaching. That gave them an advantage over those of their peers who only considered management as their playing days neared the end. Rodgers and Villas-Boas were coaching in their early twenties. Moyes played until his mid-thirties, but took his first qualifications at 22. So intent was Moyes on learning his new trade he later took the Uefa Pro licence in both England and Scotland. Man-management may be, as Neil Warnock argues elsewhere in these pages, more important than badges but an interest in coach education – which nowadays includes psychological aspects as well as tactical and technical ones – marks out many of the successful managers.

Of course, there have been excellent players who make outstanding managers – Pep Guardiola, Fabio Capello, Roberto Mancini and Carlo Ancelotti come to mind. Finding British equivalents is, however, not easy. The last great player from these shores to have won the title as a manager was Kenny Dalglish in 1995, before him Dave Mackay in 1975. In the intervening years George Graham, Brian Clough, Bob Paisley and Howard Kendall won titles but, like Alex Ferguson, they were good rather than great players.

There is an argument that those players who had to work at their game to realise their ability are more likely to be able to coach others than those to whom it came naturally. Possessing knowledge is one thing, being able to impart it is another entirely and it is notable that several teachers became successful managers – such as Rinus Michels, Howard Wilkinson, Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown.

Tommy Mooney, the former Watford striker now working as an academy coach at Aston Villa, has been attending an FA Advanced Youth Award at St George’s Park. He reflected: “With the way I played football for 20 years, you don’t think of the way young players learn, you just got on with it and as long as you scored your goals on a Saturday afternoon you were happy. This [course] is an eye-opener for me and I’m sure for a lot of the other ex-pros.”

It may be telling that most of the managers whose playing experience is limited employ as coaches men who achieved greater distinction on the pitch. Ex-internationals Boro Primorac and Steve Bould assist Wenger, Wales striker Colin Pascoe works with Rodgers and, most obviously, alongside Villas-Boas is former German midfielder Steffen Freund. Conversely, ex-Dutch international Martin Jol works with career coach Michael Lindeman.

Uruguayan international Gus Poyet is in the frame for Sunderland but Short is wise not to rush the decision. He needs to look beyond the glittering career, beyond even Poyet’s achievements at (and bitter departure from) Brighton, and treat this appointment as he would have an executive position at Lone Star Funds, the equity company Short ran. Then he just has to sit back in his executive seat and hope, and pray, this time he guessed right.

Premier managers: International caps

Manager   Caps

Arsenal  Arsène Wenger -  

Aston Villa  Paul Lambert 40    

Cardiff City Malky Mackay     5

Chelsea       Jose Mourinho      -

C Palace      Ian Holloway         -

Everton       Roberto Martinez -

Fulham        Martin Jol               3

Hull City       Steve Bruce          -

Liverpool     Brendan Rodgers -

Man City      Manuel Pellegrini  28

Man Utd       David Moyes        -

Newcastle    Alan Pardew         -

Norwich        Chris Hughton      53

Southampton Mauricio Pochettino 20

Stoke City     Mark Hughes       72

Swansea       Michael Laudrup 104

Tottenham   Andre Villas-Boas -

West Brom   Steve Clarke        6

West Ham    Sam Allardyce      -

* Sunderland are without a manager

Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
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