Before Sympathy, British Managers Must Improve

Moyes' sacking means that the 'Where are the British managers?' drum is again being beaten. Matthew Stanger says they must improve before their plight is lamented...

Last Updated: 24/04/14 at 09:14 Post Comment

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As new scalpels are sought in the post-mortem of David Moyes' dismissal, persistent concerns over the plight of British managers have been raised once again. Forget that there isn't a single black manager in any of England's top four divisions, apparently it's the lack of Britishness among the elite that is the real problem.

When Manchester United appointed Moyes, it was championed as a victory for the British boss. 'It is not just that Moyes deserves this appointment, English football deserves it, too,' wrote Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail. 'It deserves to be taken seriously. It deserves to matter. The alternative was not to reject one man, but the worth of the entire game in this country.'

An exaggerated opinion if ever there was, and betrayed by Samuel writing on Tuesday that 'it is pointless pretending Moyes carries the same clout as his contemporaries at the major European clubs.' But the hyperbole hasn't ceased, with the papers now poring over what Moyes' sacking might mean for the future of British coaching. As one headline in The Telegraph would have you believe, it's a 'disaster'.

Is it an English thing to be so concerned with the ambitions of native managers? Did the Danes bemoan the standing of their coaches when Swansea sacked Michael Laudrup? "Ikke nok tid," they presumably wailed. And how about the Portuguese reaction to Andre Villas-Boas suffering his second Premier League dismissal inside two years? "Muito obrigado, Senhor Ashton."

Or perhaps other nations don't take themselves so seriously. Of course, the increasing power of the Premier League has seen the number of top-flight British managers fall at a more alarming rate than in any of Europe's rival leagues. But the cream will surely rise to the top, regardless of how Moyes' reign at Old Trafford is perceived.

Henry Winter suggests in The Telegraph that 'Premier League owners, many of them foreign, will surely be less inclined to entrust their valuable clubs to British managers in the wake of Moyes's unhappy spell at Old Trafford.'

Winter continues: 'The names in the frame for his successor reflects that: the Dutchman Louis van Gaal, the Italian Carlo Ancelotti and the German Jurgen Klopp. It seems inevitable that United will go foreign.'

Winter's view fudges the argument. Owners do not appoint managers based on nationality, but in terms of their credentials. That is why FSG overlooked more experienced alternatives across the continent to hire Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool after only one season in top-flight management. To seemingly anyone other than the press, this is not a debate about British v foreign managers; it is about finding the right quality in a search that should not be limited to these shores.

It would be more appropriate to analyse British bosses on merit as individuals, not as some homogeneous body conjoined only through birthplace. Is it likely that the owner of a Premier League club would reject Paul Lambert because he's British or because his reign at Aston Villa has left so much to be desired?

Steve Bruce, for all his brilliant achievements at Hull, is yet to shake his image of the blushing manager at Old Trafford when told Sir Alex Ferguson was impressed by Sunderland's performance in defeat.

There are obvious reasons why journalists champion the cause of British managers, who hang around longer to build valuable relationships with the media and are typically more willing to talk to the press than their foreign counterparts. But the onus is on them to improve before their complaints can be taken seriously. Of those managing in the top flight this season, which bosses can truly claim to have gone beyond or even met expectations? Not Hughton, not Allardyce, not Lambert, not Clarke, and certainly not Moyes. Rodgers has been the exception, while Pulis, Hughes and Bruce can all be proud of their achievements.

Should that trio continue to improve their clubs' fortunes next year, then perhaps they will be able to present a strong case when applying for bigger roles, although all three have previously failed at clubs with larger budgets than their current employers. The simple truth is that British managers must do better before we can lament their plight. Perhaps more should seek to broaden their horizons and pursue roles abroad instead of bemoaning the lack of opportunities in England.

Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.

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