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English managers: a dying breed?

Published: Wednesday 21 January 2004, 12.01CET
English managers are thin on the ground since their golden age in the 1970s and 1980s.
Published: Wednesday 21 January 2004, 12.01CET

English managers: a dying breed?

English managers are thin on the ground since their golden age in the 1970s and 1980s.

By Rob Ganley

It is 20 years since an English manager guided an English team to European club football's top prize. His name was Joe Fagan, his team Liverpool FC, the year 1984. Incredibly, it was also the seventh European Champion Clubs' Cup in eight seasons to be lifted by an English side managed by an Englishman. Three were won by Liverpool under Bob Paisley, still the only coach to have claimed a hat-trick of trophies.

Declining trend
Since Fagan, the best performance by an English manager was Sir Bobby Robson leading Newcastle United FC to the second group stage of last season's UEFA Champions League. The Premiership's formation, and Sky's lucrative television deal, means more pressure in the top flight than ever before. The Bosman ruling opened the way for foreign talent to play in England, and the big clubs soon imported foreign coaching talent.

Foreign coaches
Arsène Wenger took over at Arsenal FC in 1996, Gérard Houllier followed at Liverpool and Claudio Ranieri joined Chelsea FC. This trend has now reached such a point that the Premiership has fewer homegrown managers than any of the other major leagues in Europe. Only ten are English, although there are also five Scots, one Welshman and one Irishman.

Parochial attitude
Until the 1990s, the attitude of English managers like Brian Clough - who won back-to-back European Cups with Nottingham Forest FC in 1979 and 1980 - largely prevailed: "I can't even spell spaghetti, never mind talk Italian. How could I tell an Italian to get the ball - he might grab mine."

New ideas
But foreign coaches changed the English game, emphasising tactics, diet, fitness and psychology. Now English managers barely get a look-in, as Sven-Göran Eriksson's appointment as England manager shows. More worrying is the lack of an obvious English candidate to replace the Swede: of those ten English bosses in the Premiership, two - Robson and Kevin Keegan - have already done the job.

English exports
There have been some English exports to Europe but recent traffic has all been the other way. The last English manager to win the league title was Howard Wilkinson with Leeds United AFC in 1992. The last English manager to win the FA Cup was Joe Royle, with Everton FC in 1995.

English response
John Barnwell, CEO of the League Managers' Association (LMA), said: "We have clubs that are plc companies, and they tend to go for personality appointments." As a result the LMA started a certificate of football management, accredited by Warwick University, to nurture native talent. Wales manager Mark Hughes graduated last year. Former England internationals Tony Adams and Stuart Pearce are taking part this year.

Professional qualification
"We ground them in man-management, decision-making, understanding budgets and contracts - all the things you need for modern club management," said Barnwell. "Then we say to club chairmen that these guys are young and gifted and committed. This is the first port of call a chairman should make, not looking abroad, or at how many caps he earned as a player, or whether he's a good-looking boy who speaks well on television."

Brave ideal
It remains to be seen if chairmen of England's élite clubs will get shareholders to see that the future lies in dipping into England's pool of young managerial talent.

This article is an abridged version of an article which appears in the third issue of Champions, the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League, which is now on sale. Click here to subscribe now.

Last updated: 10/12/17 4.28CET

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