Second class? Nowhere to go? It’s British manager nonsense

Date published: Tuesday 31st October 2017 6:44

After the fantastic, joyful, thrilling success of England’s U-17 side winning the World Cup this weekend, discussion quickly turned to concern that these lads will never get first-team game time and will be blocked from progressing at top clubs by all of the imported international talent. But if they’re consistently really good and are prepared, as many now are, to play outside of England at some point, I’m sure things will turn out fine for many of them.

Football is a global game and I’d hope this generation of players fundamentally understand that. Unlike Sam Allardyce. Here he is in a far-flung corner of a foreign land in the grotesque Palace of Little England that is BeIn.

Isn’t that an incredible belch of dumb nonsense? This is the pitiful paranoia which has dragged the English game down for decades. His is a pathetic, weak attitude and yet it infects the whole of the English game. Loud voices are always shouting about the English being denied by the foreign, feeling sorry for themselves, telling us they are being done down. Wrongly painting themselves as the victim and inventing their own narratives to prove their own delusions.

Note how those that believe this rubbish always refer to foreigners as though they are one amorphous group. It’s quite bizarre. When they say a club’s owners have “gone foreign” it obviously doesn’t occur to them that the club has actually just employed an individual defined by his knowledge and experience, and not by his foreignness.

On top of this dreadful weird outlook, they also insist on calling foreign names and, I presume, by extension actual foreigners “sexy”. It feels like they’re grumpy tourists abroad complaining about how all the English lasses are getting off with Italian men as they look on with a mixture of lust, envy and fury.

This week Micky Adams has been promoting his very interesting book. But in an interview about the future of coaching he says:

“They (the clubs) spend a fortune on the sexy foreign coaches and it pushes everybody down the leagues and leaves good people without jobs.”


Phil Thompson on Soccer Saturday said he thought Everton’s owners would want “a more sexy name” than David Unsworth as manager. Phil wanted “Unzie” to get the job. Why? Because “he knows the club”. Of course. This is the man, along with Paul Merson, who shamefully defined Marco Silva’s qualities wholly by his non-Englishness.

This was a man who had won Segunda Liga (2011–12), Taça de Portugal (2014–15), Superleague Greece (2015–16) and been awarded Segunda Liga Coach of the Year (2011–12). It’s not nothing. For this to be dismissed out of hand in this manner was perfectly illustrative of this narrow state of mind which runs through our game like blue veins in a block of Stilton.

And yet, it is typical of this odd cabal who are employed in our media, often unchallenged, presumably to feed a paranoid constituency.

Harry Redknapp also thinks foreigners are sexy: “These new owners come in, they see a sexy name; someone who’s been a famous player or famous manager somewhere, and they bring them into England and think they can do the job. But it doesn’t necessarily work. Foreigners aren’t cleverer than we are. Give our lads a chance and they’ll do the job.”

Such language of sweeping assumption and generalisation is obviously meaningless. Where you’re from doesn’t dictate how good you’ll be at the job. Obviously. And do most people really see foreign names as sexy? Let’s ask Stefan Kuntz.

There was more guff about this from Paul Ince: “We highlight when foreign managers comes in and do well, we don’t highlight when English managers do well.”

If anything the absolute opposite is true. Does he think that no-one has a good word to say for Eddie Howe? We hear nothing but fine words about him and very little criticism. Sean Dyche likewise.

Sean went through a strange phase a year or so ago when he began referring to himself in the third person and expressing a peculiar sort of baseless paranoia which he had conjured up in his own head and mistaken for truth.

“Antonio Conte came in at Chelsea and he got commended for bringing a hard, fast, new leadership to Chelsea, which involved doing 800-metre runs, 400m runs and 200m runs,” the Burnley boss said. “Come to my training and see Sean Dyche doing that and you’d say, ‘Dinosaur, a young English dinosaur manager, hasn’t got a clue’.”

As we said at the time, there was no evidence of anyone thinking Sean was a dinosaur and plenty of evidence of praise being heaped upon him.

Redknapp has also complained that the only way to get into the Premier League for an English manager is to get promoted with a club, the way Eddie Howe did, as if this is a second-rate way of being successful. As if any other route is inferior to being parachuted into a top job without qualification.

But working your way up is the normal way of progressing to the top in any business. Getting your mates big jobs when they’ve no experience or talent, now that’s the strange thing.

Oh yes let’s mention Tim Sherwood because we can always use a laugh. You will remember that he got two of the top jobs in English football without even having managed before. What would Phil Thompson have said about such an appointment if Tim Sherwood was called Silva? Can you imagine?

Jamie Redknapp laid out Timbo’s credentials in 2013.

“He has played the game at the highest level, understands English football and he knows the club inside out. I don’t want to be xenophobic, but it’s not just English players we don’t give a chance to – it’s English coaches as well. Sherwood won’t talk tactics, he’ll talk football. He’s no bluffer, he’s a football man and he’s exactly what Spurs need.”

I mean, where do you start with that?

To the rest of us, it is quite obvious that, firstly, the vast majority of managers are still British and indeed, may well owe their jobs to that fact. Those that are not British have been selected for jobs on their perceived talent, not nationality. People like Conte, like Jurgen Klopp, like Marco Silva or David Wagner have more than proven their worth at other clubs. Their success allowed them to upgrade their jobs, just as it could do for Sean Dyche, especially if he was prepared to manage in Europe. But Europe is foreign and foreign doesn’t count. So in the Allardyce blinkered circle jerk, they’ve “nowhere to go” apparently.

How loudly do we have to say this? There is no anti-English conspiracy. There’s just 20 top-flight English clubs and thousands of football managers in the world. The rest of us understand that football is a global game and that any English manager can go anywhere in the world and manage a football club. For Allardyce to say “we’ve nowhere to go” suggests English managers are narrow-minded, stupid, weak, full of bad attitude and are losers who can’t compete. If you owned a club, would you want to employ someone like that? No. If I was a prospective manager, I’d be telling
him to shut his meat hole and stop painting me in this negative way.

I just hope the Under-17s take absolutely no notice and continue to be successful, simply by being really bloody good because, despite what all of the above might want us to believe, excellent footballers and managers are not being denied a place in any team, or at any club, just because they’re English.

And even in the modern day, stupid-is-the-new-clever crapocracy, it can’t be allowed to stand. Let’s not tolerate our game being dragged down to that level any longer.

John Nicholson

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