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

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker