The Demise of the English Coach – Manager

There seems to be a lot of concern regarding English Footballers struggling to break through in England but what is a real concern for me personally is where are all the English Managers? Will we ever see an English coach win the premier league?

In 1992 Howard Wilkinson was the last English manager to have coached a team to the English league championship title; the nine subsequent winning managers have been Scottish (Sir Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish), French (Arsène Wenger), Portuguese (José Mourinho), Italian (Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini, Claudio Ranieri and Antonio Conte) and Chilean (Manuel Pellegrini).

If we take a look back at the demise in season starting;

To date FIFTY TWO managers out of 92 league clubs in England are managed by English managers with three clubs yet to appoint. A little over 55% of teams are managed by English managers.

In 1980 NINETEEN teams out of 22 was managed by English Managers; Ron Saunders, Sir Bobby Robson, Ron Atkinson, Bob Paisley, Lawrie McMenemy, Brian Clough, Dave Sexton, Jimmy Adamson, Keith Burkinshaw, Malcolm Allison, Jim Smith, John Neal, Gordon Lee, Gordon Milne, Ken Knighton, John Barnwell, Alan Mullery, John Bond and Terry Venables

In 1990 FIFTEEN teams out of 20 was managed by English Managers; Steve Coppell, Howard Wilkinson, Peter Reid, Ray Harford, Brian Clough, Howard Kendall, Terry Venables, Bobby Campbell, Don Howe, Dave Bassett, Chris Nicholl, Dave Stringer, Terry Butcher, Denis Smith and Arthur Cox.

In 2000 ELEVEN teams out of 20 was managed by English Managers; John Gregory, Alan Curbishley, Jim Smith, Peter Taylor, Joe Royle, Bryan Robson/Terry Venables, Sir Booby Robson, Stuart Gray, Peter Reid, Glenn Hoddle and Glen Roeder.

In 2010 FIVE teams out of 20 was managed by English Managers; Ian Holloway, Alan Pardew, Steve Bruce, Harry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson.

In 2016 THREE teams out of 20 was managed by English Managers; Eddie Howe, Sean Dyche and Alan Pardew.

To date FIFTY TWO managers out of 92 league clubs in England are managed by English managers with three clubs yet to appoint. A little over 55% of teams are managed by English managers.

If we currently look at other major leagues in Europe at the start of the 2016/17 season:
Spain 13 Spanish managers out of 20 teams 65%
Italy 16 Italian managers out of 20 teams 80%
Germany 10 German managers out of 18 teams 55%
England 3 English managers out of 20 teams 15%

These are shocking statistics for any English manager coming into the game and the numbers are dropping rapidly. I can see shortly that we won’t have any English Managers managing in the premier league which really is a sad state for English coaches in there own country.

These are shocking statistics for any English manager coming into the game and the numbers are dropping rapidly. I can see shortly that we won’t have any English Managers managing in the premier league which really is a sad state for English coaches in there own country.

I remember in 2005 I was Managing a team in Thailand and making arrangements to head back to the UK to undertake my FA/UEFA Pro Licence award and was speaking to the then Thai FA President who was baffled why I was traveling so far to undertake a coaching qualification, when I informed him how good the FA was at delivering coaching qualifications and how professional the organisation was he asked me why the FA was employing a foreign manager to coach the there National Team and had been for the past five years. I was lost for words…why had an organisation steeped in so many traditions and values employed a foreign coach. I sat on the course with another 18 candidates 15 of us was English 2 was from Scotland and 1 from Holland. A high percentage of English coaches are also going through the UEFA ‘A’ Licence. Its now great to see the FA employing English coaches now and it looks like the future is bright with the England U20 winning recently under an English Coach. But unfortunately for the English coach this mentality is very different at club level and with so many foreign owners I don’t see this changing.

I have coached in many countries around the world and have come across only a small number of English coaches coaching abroad but if a compare this with other nationalities coaching teams or national teams the numbers are a lot higher. I wonder why if English coaches are getting pushed out of there own country why aren’t more coaches trying to coach abroad? I spoke with a German coach who was coaching a team in the UAE and he was telling me the support he and other coaches receive from there federation and they actually have an active association to support coaches working abroad. What was most surprising was that his federation actually push coaches into coaching positions with other organisations.

I took the plunge in 1999 when I was only 29yrs old when I was offered the chance to manage a top team in the Thai Premier league. I had signed a 2yr contract with a view of coming back after the 2 years but this took me onto coaching in Singapore in the S-League and assistant National coach for the Indonesia National team which was a great learning curve for me in my coaching education. After 8yrs coaching abroad I decided it was time to return to the UK but found it extremely difficult at securing a coaching position at the same level, it seemed like I had been coaching on another planet for 8yrs as this just seemed to be overlooked at not the same level as the UK.

I was speaking with a team in the UAE and they was looking for my assistance in finding a new coach as I was working for scout7 at the time. I asked what the criteria was and what they was looking for, I was quite shocked with there answer…They wanted a Brazilian coach when I tried to dig deeper into what experience or level of coach they was looking for they said that they didn’t mind as long as he was Brazilian!

A colleague of mine was coaching for a Premier League side in the middle east when the head coach he was working for at the time lost his job, the new coach that came in simply told him he didn’t like English coaches as they was of low standard! 

A colleague of mine was coaching for a Premier League side in the middle east when the head coach he was working for at the time lost his job, the new coach that came in simply told him he didn’t like English coaches as they was of low standard! I do hear it banded about that English coaches are long ball merchants, which does drive me mad as to how all coaches are tarred with the same brush and where this idea has come from baffles me. Was Terry Venables, Bobby Robson or Bob Paisley long ball coaches and the answer is NO. I believe it come about under Charles Hughes when he studied a number of games and came to the conclusion that all goals was scored from only 2 or 3 passes so getting the ball into the oppositions area was vital in his findings. Like with everything this is open to opinion for coaches and they have to either believe in that way or come up with there own style. Charles was Director of Football for the FA and I sat and listened to his presentation when I was completing my FA Full Badge. I found his presentation interesting but I wasn’t of the opinion that I wanted my teams to play that way. I do believe there is a time to play a long pass when that pass is needed but I wouldn’t advocate my teams to be one directional.

This got me thinking are coaches simply judged on there nationality or ability? It does seem that when national teams win World Cups or the Euro’s that seems to sway a lot of clubs into thinking that they want the same Nationality of coach. I think what clubs fail to realise is that this is not going to bring the same style as that particular national team.

So where has it gone so drastically wrong for the English Coach Manager? Is it we haven’t won the World Cup since 1966? If we look at the period between 1970 – 1990 English Managers dominated domestically and in Europe having Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Tony Barton and Joe Fagan winning European Cups before English clubs was banned from European competitions. Domestically from 1970 – 1990 English Managers won the league 14 times with 7 different managers; Harry Catterick, Bertie Mee, Brian Clough 2, Don Revie, Bob Paisley 6, Ron Saunders, Joe Fagan and Howard Kendall.

Looking back on some of the great English coaches and managers from the past such as;

Malcolm Alison

Malcolm Alison who LMA Chairman, Howard Wilkinson paid tribute to the career and life of Allison by saying; “An innovator who was ahead of his time and in his time Malcolm was a legend. He was generous, humorous and a fantastic coach who lived life to the full. Malcolm was inspirational to all would be coaches including myself and the likes of Terry Venables. A forward thinker with a big personality who always had a smile on his face.

Dario Gradi who was a massive inspiration to me as a coach I was lucky enough to work with him at Crewe and he was the best coach I worked under. Non of his coaching sessions was ever the same and you was constantly learning from him he was simply a bag of knowledge.

Don Howe who I first had the privilege to see first hand when he delivered a defending master class on my FA Full Badge course. I have had the pleasure to watch him work at Arsenal and he again delivered on my UEFA Pro Licence course.

Malcolm Alison who LMA Chairman, Howard Wilkinson paid tribute to the career and life of Allison by saying; “An innovator who was ahead of his time and in his time Malcolm was a legend. 

Terry Venables who put together exciting teams at Crystal Palace and QPR he was then snapped up by Barcelona where he went on to win the Spanish league title a successful manager home and abroad.

Bobby Robson another manager who was successful home and abroad with Ipswich, Porto, PSV and Barcelona. His enthusiasm and knowledge for the game was inspirational to all the players who played under him.

Bob Paisley won everything at domestic level and made Liverpool into a powerhouse both in England and Europe.

Brian Clough won two championships with two relative small teams along with two european cups.

Some other notable English managers; Davis Pleat, Ron Atkinson, Ron Saunders, John Bond, Howard Kendall, Sam Allardyce, Alan Curbishley, Dave Sexton, Steve Coppell, Don Revie, Howard Wilkinson, Steve McClaren, Gareth Southgate, Chris Hughton.

Looking at the England Situation I remember listening to Sir Bobby Robson when he spoke on my Pro Licence course and he told me when the FA didn’t renew his contract before the 1990 World Cup he was the best qualified English manager around who just got the England team to a World Cup semi-final. Then I look at other managers who have been moved on Alf Ramsey wins the World Cup in 1966 fails to qualify in 1974 and sacked with a 64% win percentage. Sir Bobby Robson a quarter final and semi final in World Cups and contract not renewed. Terry Venables moved on after lifting the nation in 1996 to a semi final place in the Euro’s with the team playing some of the best football I’ve witnessed. Glen Hoddle moved on for non football reasons with a 60% win ratio.

If you take a look at the LMAs website they have a list of managers who have managed 1,000 games in England out of 25 managers who have achieved this milestone 20 of them was born in England with 9 currently active.

I then look at all the great English players we have had who have either had a short spell in management or not at all and wonder if they still have something to offer the game and its sad to see many of them who would love to still be active in the game not able to pass on a lifetime of lessons learnt, could a Booby Moore offer some advice and guidance to central defenders or Kenny Sansom on fullbacks, how about Neil Webb or David Batty on how to play the central midfield role, out wide David Beckham or John Barnes, centre forwards such as Cyrille Regis, Andy Cole or Teddy Sheringham on scoring goals all lost to the game in a coaching role. I wouldn’t think twice about any of these guys helping my players on specific roles in the team and how to improve your game I’m sure there is a mountain of knowledge that players and coaches would love to tap into. Some seem happy not to put themselves in the firing line taking up the comfort of the TV studio as a pundit.

I listen to many of them criticising other managers tactics and selections and yet they wouldn’t put themselves in the hot seat but happy to sit on the sidelines. 

I listen to many of them criticising other managers tactics and selections and yet they wouldn’t put themselves in the hot seat but happy to sit on the sidelines. Obviously not all great players make great managers or coaches and its people like myself who didn’t have an exceptional career but had a thirst for knowledge and want’s to improve continually improve myself as best I can.

So where can we go from here? Some suggestions that could be explored? Why is there such a lack of English Coaches working abroad? Would English coaches be prepared to work abroad to gain more experience as a head coach? In my own experience it has enhanced my knowledge and given me the chance to manage at a high level that I couldn’t have done in the UK. I believe the FA could take a more active role in supporting coaches working abroad along with the LMA in securing positions for English coaches. Could we have a coaches association to support English/British coaches and managers.

Something has to change as I can see in the next few seasons as the stats are indicating that we will very soon not have an English manager in the premier league.