It is often said in football that English managers and coaches are not given the same opportunities as those from other countries. You will read in the tabloids (and often in the more respected papers as well) that these foreigners are taking jobs that our own are more than capable of filling with the same level of style, panache and experience. However, given a lot of what we’ve seen going on in football – and to a greater extent the press (let’s not underestimate how much they affect opinions) – I would argue that it is the foreign managers that are under more pressure and scrutiny and handed less time to prove themselves.
At the heart of this attitude, there is a desire to see the best that English football has to offer at the ‘top table’; in the top jobs. But this comes very close to xenophobia in some situations and leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. The simple fact of the matter is: foreign coaches are preferred simply because they are better. People may point to the likes of Alex Ferguson, David Moyes, and Martin O’Neill but let’s not kid ourselves; these men are ‘foreign’. Sure, they may live on the same island and speak (for the most part) the same language but they originate from completely separate nations; they are not English so by definition, they are foreigners. Sadly for Englishmen, they too are better than anything we can offer.
The press (and, I’m sure, more than a few people that read this article) will argue til they are blue in the face that English managers are as good as any other. That they are just not given the opportunities their foreign counterparts are but this is nonsense. Top jobs are awarded on merit, not nationality. Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal – three of the group known traditionally as the ‘Big Four’, have employed all of their recent managers (Avram Grant aside) on their track record and reputations, not based on their vicinity to the club’s ground. Any top English managers around at the time will have been considered, not overlooked. Take our own club as an example: we had a track record of employing exclusively from the British Isles. Before Gerard Houllier, we had Roy Evans, before him Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish. After Dalglish, Souness and Evans performed poorly, at best. Houllier, once given the opportunity to manage alone, performed near miracles in his first few years, repaying the faith of the club’s owners in its first coach from the continent. Benitez later went on to build on Houllier’s successes and performed actual miracles. Likewise, the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal had always stayed loyal to British coaches but once they turned to the continent they both experienced the best periods in each club’s history.
Of course, the thing that usually instigates this discussion is an English manager getting the sack and recently a press favourite – Sam Allardyce – was sacked by Blackburn. An unbiased mind would look at all the facts and see that he underachieved and had them playing some of the ugliest football around. The media see it as an indictment of these crazy and impatient foreigners that won’t give the English a chance. Yet, if you look at the coverage of Roberto Mancini and Carlo Ancelotti’s situations in recent months you can’t help but notice a distinctly different attitude; there is almost a delicious glee to the way the media report on how Ancelotti appears to have lost control of the club and how Mancini can’t keep his players or the owners happy. The press seems to have little faith in these two men, despite sharing 4 Serie A’s, 5 Coppa Italias and 2 Champions League’s. That kind of track record should buy both these men more time. If they have one bad season, they should at least be given another to rectify the situation but they won’t. The tabloids won’t allow it while there is a chance that one of their favourites might get a crack at one of these jobs.
Even England manager Fabio Capello has lost the press, after England’s ‘finest’ once again failed to turn up at a World Cup. It seems that the claims that ‘if this man can’t make England World Cup winners, then we’ll know the problem is with the players’ has swiftly been forgotten. It seems that his track record of 7 Serie A titles, 2 La Ligas and a Champions League now mean nothing; he didn’t win the World Cup with a bunch of overrated prima donnas so his 30+ year managerial career counts for nothing. If you take a look at the man touted to potentially – eventually – replace all three then you see either a symptom of the problem, or an example of the problem itself: Harry Redknapp. Years of self-promotion and press-promotion have made him what he is today: an arrogant, smarmy, self-impressed under-achiever. Some people forget but this man has been in management over 30 years. In that time, he has won an FA Cup. He has also qualified for the Champions League once. Oh, he has also seen several of the clubs he’s managed relegated too. Yet, he is the best we have to offer and the press would have you believe he is the best in the country.
Similarly (and where I get to the point of how this affects Liverpool), Roy Hodgson can seemingly do no wrong. Nothing is ever his fault; every defeat is met with excuses and buck-passing. Liverpool fans have been getting criticised all season long for wanting Roy Hodgson sacked. After the team’s 8th league defeat of the season on Wednesday, the ground was resounding with boos, all of them directed at one man: the manager. There are few left that think he should be given a bit more time. These few are the press and they will happily see Liverpool run into the ground before they will change their opinion of the man. This is what we’re up against.
What scares me most is that once Hodgson finally does go, the press will again be pushing for an Englishman to be given a chance, and I’m sure the likes of Allardyce and Redknapp will be mentioned. I know who my choice will be and he has been hounded by the press ever since he made it clear he wouldn’t be towing their line; he is a prime example of how foreign managers are given much less time to turn a situation around, despite his previous record. He is currently on holiday on Merseyside, so he’s within a stone’s throw of the ground as well. However, should he be overlooked if and when the top job in the country again becomes available, I will still prefer a foreign manager, and unless the whole culture of English managers (and the quality of them) changes sometime soon, I always will.
Read more of David Tyrer articles at Live4Liverpool