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Neville's forebears: British managers in Spain

New Valencia boss Gary Neville is not the first British coach to fly south to the Liga; UEFA.com's Richard Martin celebrates the Liga's most notable British tacticians.

Barcelona manager Terry Venables with new British signings Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes in 1986
Barcelona manager Terry Venables with new British signings Gary Lineker and Mark Hughes in 1986 ©Getty Images

Fred Pentland
Racing Santander 1920–21, Athletic Club 1922–25 and 1929–33, Real Oviedo 1926–27, Atlético Madrid 1925–26, 1927–29, 1934–35

The former England international coached Germany and France – bad timing in the former job meant he lived out the First World War years in a German detention centre. He also spent 18 years in Spain, enjoying a friendly victory over England while serving as national-team assistant coach. His biggest successes came at Athletic, where he won two Liga titles and five domestic cups. Instantly recognisable for his bowler hat and cigar, Pentland revolutionised the club's play, moving them from a physical game and ushering in an era of short passing.

Terry Venables
Barcelona, 1984–87

Dubbed 'El Tel' upon becoming the seventh Englishman to manage Barcelona, Venables introduced a British-style 4-4-2 system – and a notable Scottish striker, Steve Archibald, who top-scored as Barça romped to the championship in the Londoner's first term in charge. His side then reached the 1986 European Champion Clubs' Cup final – with 15-year-old ball boy Josep Guardiola joining in the celebrations – but endured a shoot-out defeat by Steaua Bucureşti. Even with Mark Hughes and Gary Lineker arriving that summer, the Blaugrana not wrest back the title from Real Madrid, and Venables was eventually forced out.

John Toshack and Gary Lineker at Barcelona
John Toshack and Gary Lineker at Barcelona©Getty Images

John Toshack
Real Sociedad, 1985–89, 1991–94 and 2001–02; Real Madrid 1989–90 and 1999

The Welshman had already sampled European football with Sporting CP and tasted further success with Real Sociedad. His capture of the 1987 Copa del Rey represents the Basque club's last major trophy, and encouraged La Real to hire him on two further occasions. Toshack also had two stints at Real Madrid, winning the Liga in 1990, and is still remembered for his unique grasp of the Spanish language – sometimes directly translating English idioms to the bemusement of local journalists.

Sir Bobby Robson at Barcelona
Sir Bobby Robson at Barcelona©Getty Images

Sir Bobby Robson
Barcelona 1996–97

Like Toshack, Robson was already acquainted with the European landscape before landing at Barcelona, bringing with him José Mourinho from Porto and an emerging forward from PSV. Ronaldo announced himself to the world by scoring 34 goals under Robson, labelling his boss "without question one of the best managers in the world". In a single season in Spain, Robson picked up an impressive treble of Spanish Super Cup, Copa del Rey and European Cup Winners' Cup. Yet not even a European Manager of the Year award could prevent the Catalans appointing Louis van Gaal to succeed him.

Chris Coleman
Real Sociedad, 2007–08

The current Wales manager headed to Spain for his second coaching job after a four-year stay at Fulham, installed on the recommendation of countryman Toshack. Tasked with steering La Real back to the top flight after relegation, his side endured a difficult start. Despite progress and an eventual ascent to fifth in the Segunda División, Coleman resigned in the January, citing differences with the president. He was also caught in a storm after turning up late to a press conference, blaming a broken washing machine; he later admitted he had been out the night before and overslept.

David Moyes
Real Sociedad, 2014–15

The Scot's first interactions with a struggling La Real team were hugely positive as he tightened up a hapless defence and quickly led them away from Liga relegation trouble, even pulling off a memorable 1-0 victory over Barcelona. However, doubts lingered about his side's style and lack of goals, and a disappointing run of results at the start of this campaign caused the former Everton and Manchester United boss to be relieved of his duties.

Honourable mentions
Harry Lowe (Real Sociedad, 1930–35)
James Bellamy (Barcelona, 1929–31)
Ronnie Allen (Athletic Club, 1969–72)
Howard Kendall (Athletic Club, 1987–89)
Jack Greenwell (Barcelona, 1917–23 and 1931–33, Espanyol 1927–29, Mallorca 1930–31, Valencia 1933–34, Sporting Gijón 1935–36)
Vic Buckingham (Barcelona, 1969–71)
Ron Atkinson (Atlético Madrid, 1988–89)
Colin Addison (Celta Vigo 1986–87, Atletico Madrid 1989, Cádiz 1993–94, Badajoz 1995–96)

David Moyes during his time at Real Sociedad
David Moyes during his time at Real Sociedad©Getty Images