British Managers: New Direction Needed

Tony Adams’ laughable appointment as Granada manager last month did not help the perception of British managers, especially abroad. Granada have since been relegated from La Liga, which of course is not the fault of Adams, however hiring such an inexperienced manager did not help their cause.

British managers have been known to struggle abroad, the likes of David Moyes, Gary Neville and Steve McClaren have all tried and failed to make a name for themselves outside of the British Isles. McClaren did guide FC. Twente to the Eredivisie in 2009/10, however the last British manager to really succeed abroad was Sir Bobby Robson, following his successes with Porto, Barcelona and PSV. These days British managers are reluctant to manage abroad. There is a lack of understanding of the game abroad, a British style will not work in say La Liga, David Moyes found that out. If a British manager is to make the move abroad, they must immerse themselves in the culture, get to know the identity of the club, understand what the club symbolises.

A manager must adapt to a new environment, study the league and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of both the team and the league itself. What do the defences in the league fear the most? Against which type of defender does an attacker struggle the most? Counter attack or possession?British managers, who have made the decision to manage abroad fail to apply these points. A huge number of foreign managers who come to Britain are successful, why? Mainly because they have studied what works and what doesn’t in the league they will be managing in. Antonio Conte for example, he changed Chelsea’s formation from a 4-1-4-1 to a 3-4-3, the Italian made the change because he identified the formation as a way to punish the opposition and get the best out of the players at his disposal. The amount of successful foreign managers to have graced the British game is astonishing, is it really surprising that British teams look overseas for their next manager?

We have a tendency to put British managers on a pedestal, no matter who they are. We then throw our arms aloft in anger when a foreign manager is chosen over the British candidate. For example, when Marco Silva was appointed Hull City manager, Paul Merson reacted by saying:

“I could win the league with Olympiakos. I’m not even joking. They’ve won it 107 times and it’s only been going 106 years. Why does it always have to be a foreign manager? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against foreign managers – Klopp, Pep Guardiola, these are top-drawer managers. This geezer ain’t any different to Gary Rowlett. These ex-footballers, they’re doing four-year, five-year courses, costing a fortune to do their badges, and none of them get a chance. None of them get a chance to manage at the top level. The ones who are – like Sean Dyche, who is doing a great job at Burnley – are fighting relegation every year. Will he get a good job? This is a good job. Hull are a good team, great stadium, some very good players. But what does he know about the Premier League?”

Phil Thompson also had his say on Hull City’s new managerial appointment, by stating:

“What does he know about Hull? It’s quite astonishing that they’ve plumped for someone like this. It’s just baffling, when there’s a lot of people out there who know about the Premier League – know what;s required to dig it. He’s not got a clue. It’s manna from heaven to be given this job … it’s another slap in the face to all our British cultures and managers – and what they have done to make this appointment for six months is just embarrassing to the football club.”

To both of their embarrassment, Silva has done a superb job since taking the Hull job. They may still be relegation candidates, though Silva has given Hull more than a fighting chance of staying up. Before Silva’s appointment, Hull had tried eight different managers in the last 15 years and all of them were born in England. The club just so happened to take a new direction, one that may yet come off.

In the Premier League, there are currently nine British managers in charge of their respective clubs. Seven of the teams managed by British managers are positioned in the bottom half of the table, Tony Pulis’ West Brom side are the highest positioned in eighth place. The wider perception of British football now is that it’s grown dated. With English clubs in particular struggling in Europe, with the England national team enduring similar difficulties, the game in Britain is seen as lagging behind, its structure viewed as failing, its coaching perceived as limited and short-sighted.

More should and can be done to help the future crop of British managers. A better education of the game itself, gaining a knowledge and understanding of what playing style works best in the likes of La Liga and Serie A. What are the differences in the infrastructure? Training and even player behaviour. Becoming accustomed to the way the game is played and managed abroad will improve the state of the British game. In doing so, British managers will become successful abroad, the national sides will also benefit from a new style of management.

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