Despite the overwhelming angst felt towards Manchester United on the part of the English public, very few have found a bad word to say about the appointment of David Moyes as the natural successor to Sir Alex Ferguson. It appears that the overwhelming consensus is that the Red Devils’ have got it right in hiring the former Everton boss; he’s one of football’s nice guys, he’s incredibly befitting of the Ferguson mould, and he’s earned his chance at a big club the hard way – by grinding out results year after year at Goodison Park.
But the lack of criticism surrounding the acquisition of Moyes taking over at one of Europe’s footballing superpowers, despite his lack of silverware and incredibly limited experience on the continental stage, is undoubtedly due to the fact we actually know who he is, in comparison to the long list of foreign appointments in the Premier League in recent years who have arrived on English shores as relatively unknown quantities, thus inviting scrutiny from the offset over their managerial abilities.
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Moyes may be Scottish, but his decade with the Toffees has made him English by association. He knows the ins and outs of the Premier League from top to bottom, and his underlying principles about how the beautiful game should be played are sourced in the English philosophy.
It’s an asset that Manchester United will intend to take full advantage of next season, but additionally, it is one of the rare few occasions that a home-grown manager has actually been appointed a role at one of the Premier League’s top four clubs.
There appears a widely held belief amongst the chairmen of English clubs that British managers are quite simply lacking in ability to run a club who plies its trade in the Champions League, with the exception of Sir Alex Ferguson. Harry Redknapp, despite once being considered as a potential candidate to run the England national team and qualifying for the Champions League whilst at Tottenham, was deposted at the start of the season in favour of Andre Villas-Boas – a manager whom has just a Europa League title and domestic accolades from his days at Porto on his cv, as well as a woeful tenure at Chelsea.
Yet, despite AVB’s obvious lack of experience and poor showing of his abilities whilst at Stamford Bridge, the fact alone that he is foreign and therefore apparently better acquanted with the philosophical, idealist side of the game, earned him a shot at White Hart Lane, at the expense of one of the most well-equiped English managers, that had taken the Lilywhites from the depths of despair to Champions League contenders in the space of a couple of seasons. Having taken over at QPR, Redknapp has now been reduced to the bracket of club English managers most commonly find themselves in – those between the top of the Championship table and the foot of the Premier League’s.
Similarly, throughout Chelsea’s ascension to European and domestic glory via the wealth of Roman Abramovich, although they have changed managers eight times following the departure of Claudio Ranieri back in 2004, not once has a home-grown coach even been strongly considered to take the reins at Stamford Bridge, with the Russian owner much preferring the prospect of bringing in the flair and style more common with continental managers.
It’s a familiar story with Manchester City, whom sacked Mark Hughes in favour of Roberto Mancini as soon as intentions at Eastlands changed to conquering Europe and the English top flight following the club’s takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008. Even this season has further examples, with Southampton firing Nigel Adkins, despite leading the Saints to back-to-back promotions from League 1, the first manager to do so in the club’s history, in favour of Mauricio Pochettino, a former Argentine international who had hardly excelled himself during his only over managerial tenure with Espanyol.
There appears to be a glass ceiling regarding British managers in the Premier League; having learned their trade by fighting their way up from the bottom, home-grown coaches are viewed as being specialists in certain fields, such as relegation battles or mid-table growth, yet no matter how much they actually achieve in these roles, they are continually denied vacancies at our biggest clubs.
Hopefully, the hiring of Moyes at England’s most successful club will break the mould and dispel some of the myths surrounding British managers. Yet in many ways, the potential for future appointments of coaches who have started their trade within the realms of the English game will rest almost entirely upon his shoulders.
Whilst I personally believe Moyes’ tenure at Old Trafford will be overall a success, he will not be given the full six years of his offered contract to secure results. Within his first few seasons, the Scot will have to claim his first piece of silverware, and any notable distancing between United and the Premier League title will be heavily scrutinised by the media.
More importantly however, it will signify that the now rare experiment of actually hiring British managers from within the Premier League has failed, and thus no British manager in the modern game has the capability to run one of England’s top clubs.
Should Moyes’ career with the Red Devils turn sour, foreign owners will always prefer the notion of a foreign coach with exotic ideas and fruitful philosophies over the pragmatic and simple styles of British managers, until we stumble across another Sir Alex Ferguson, whom himself took over at Manchester United whilst the club were in disarray rather than being given the managerial position with the expectation of greatness.
The irony is clear to see. Clubs such as Manchester City, with foreign owners, investors and directors, would much rather appoint a manager who belongs to the current flavour of the month, in this case being La Lia, rather than someone who already had a vast knowledge of the English game, English players and underlying principles in the English style of play.
I hope that David Moyes can prove to Chelsea, City and the other Premier League clubs who’ve rejected hiring their own, that British managers are more than capable of running our biggest clubs should they actually be given the chance to do so, and it is a testament to Manchester United that they have not fallen victim to the same curse, cementing behind their decision to appoint the former Everton boss the requirement for a consistency in identity of Englishness in the top flight.