Time To Address The Pro-British Bias

Were David Moyes foreign he would be out of a job by now, of that Johnny is sure. So why do the media give foreign managers a tougher ride..?

Last Updated: 18/03/14 at 11:31 Post Comment

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There is a great unspoken bias in the coverage of Premier League football, a massive elephant in the media room which no-one will talk about but which is on display every week.

It is this: Go easy on British managers.

You might think that Manchester United's slurry-like football under David Moyes might lead to an attack or two on the manager. You might think that some would question his ability to do the job. You might think someone would say that by every measure he has proven poor quality. You can be damn certain that if he was Portuguese, Spanish, South American indeed any other nationality at all, he would have been sacked. Were he not British the boot would have been put in long ago. Maybe even his sanity would have been questioned. Nothing would have been off limits.

But as it is, even after Sunday's utterly abject performance, there was little or no blame attached to Moyes. The default position is that it's the fault of players, despite all evidence to the contrary. Indeed, Moyes, though mentioned in dispatches, sometimes seems like a ghost at a party, barely even there. In the Telegraph, for example, the harshest criticism from Henry Winter was to say that "David Moyes seemed incapable of influencing the game."

The Mail suggested that if results didn't improve he wouldn't survive but refrained from saying that those results were in any way his doing. It's almost as if United is just happening to Moyes.

The Guardian said he was lucky that the fans and board were patient but didn't see fit to take a scalpel to what he had done. Where are the pieces utterly excoriating everything he's done? Because it looks like everything he's done, is wrong. When you see the manager of the biggest club on earth is consulting Phil Neville about what to do, you'd think it might be worth a critical comment or two.

But as Moyes gets worse and worse and bleeds anxiety from every pore, this position of supporting him and depicting critics as impatient morons who are in thrall to instant success is becoming unsustainable. A few small pieces of critique are appearing, a few cracks in the dam of 'give him time' but we are a long way into the season. On TV, even Paul Merson could see the problems with Moyes' team. This is not a good sign. But Merse, typical of men in his position, would never dig out a British manager like he would a foreign manager. British managers always get it easier.

We've long documented the easy ride Harry Redknapp got at Spurs. Similarly, Tim Sherwood, who by any definition is a divisive character, has benefited from one member of the punditocracy after another singing his managerial praises. There have been criticisms but largely muted ones and the supportive voices have been long and loud. Would they have been if he was French?

Most weeks someone like Glenn Hoddle will sigh and be critical of a club, in that awful mangled phrase, 'going foreign' with a managerial appointment. Sam Allardyce has developed a whole psychosis about it, feeling that he has been done out of bigger jobs by virtue of not being any flavour of foreign. This is reported regularly without anyone bothering to say the obvious; that Allardyce should think himself lucky to be working at all. That maybe he only gets the jobs he does get because he's English. West Ham may well be doing better and entertaining more with an Allardici in charge.

Just look at how any British manager is treated and compare it to how any overseas man is talked about. In some quarters Pellegrini is attacked for his methods, just as Mancini was before him. Pellegrini isn't far off winning the league but it's made no difference. No-one says Moyes' clothes are a problem when they lose do they? Moyes has had a free pass, Pellegrini hasn't. There is a swathe of media prepared to makes excuse for Moyes and not Pellegrini. The only difference is nationality.

We have well-documented the press abuse dished out to Andre Villas-Boas in his Chelsea and Spurs tenures. Trust me, no British journalist will ever suggest that Moyes or Sherwood or Allardyce or Tony Pulis or Chris Hughton is 'borderline Asperger's.'

No British manager can expect to be treated with the shrug of disrespect that greets an non-high profile manager such as West Brom's Pepe Mel. He's painted as anonymous, puzzling appointment because, presumably, a lot of the ex-players and journalists hadn't heard of him at Real Betis. Whether he's any good at West Brom or not, no-one would treat a British manager with this shrug and sneer which seems to say 'why have they gone foreign'?

If you doubt this pro-British manager bias, just cast your mind back a couple of years to how Fabio Capello was treated by our lovely press and TV people. A man who lost only one qualification game in two campaigns was routinely referred to in terms so disparaging you'd think he had blagged his way into the job by being mates with the previous boss and not actually one of the most highly decorated coaches in world football, ever. I vividly remember Tony Cottee saying on Sky, mouth turned down in a sneer, 'no, I'm not 'avin Capello'. He will never talk like that about Roy Hodgson. But only because he's British.

Its obvious no-one wants to say 'David, you're out of your depth, you're no damn good at this level' because they know they'll have to speak to him in a year or three when he's managing Blackpool or Bolton but with Pellegrini they're not so bothered about that because he'll be elsewhere in the world.

At times the coverage of British managers is so parochial that it feels hugely old fashioned. We're all used to the idea of non-British people in English football. Most of us see it as a global game which inevitably taps into a global resources. A good manager from anywhere is better than a bad manager from these islands. In fact, more than that, a non-English manager has the same right to work here and be as bad as any British manager. We don't feel let down if a foreigner gets the job, we just want them to be any good or at least entertaining, wherever they're from.

We all got over this nationality thing long, long ago but strands of football still haven't, and they think we haven't noticed that they're quick to support the Brit and to attack the Johnny F.

Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com

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