The new Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was ushered into the English game with an incredible fanfare, some even likening it to the revolution that swept the game in the country with Arsene Wenger’s arrival.
We ask is it really such a big deal and was the revolution really Wenger’s?
There was a huge air of inevitability about Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at Anfield. He had been linked with the post since word got out he was leaving Dortmund at the end of last season and the Reds continued to splutter and stall under Brendan Rodgers.
Klopp’s main competition for the post was said to be Carlo Ancelotti who had previously enjoyed a solid spell at Chelsea before being relieved of his duties and heading to Madrid via PSG. The other outside candidate mentioned was the American Bob Bradley, a long shot at best.
The interesting part of all of this is that not a single British – never mind English – candidate was in the frame. It has been de rigour for some time now in the Premiership to shop abroad, not just for players but for the manager or ‘coach’.
Of course, none of this is to say that the English game hasn’t developed immensely by learning methods from overseas. British managers had become hugely stereotyped, either overcoat wearing cigar smoking mavericks such as Ron Atkinson or John Bond from days gone by or ‘up and at ’em’ motivators with little care for aesthetics or niceties, managers such as Neil Warnock or Dave Bassett.
But this is of course to do a huge dis-service to a huge amount of great British managers, many of whom were English. Along the way and going back to the ’80s we have had greats such as Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Bobby Robson, George Graham, Sir Alex Ferguson and Terry Venables. Glenn Hoddle was considered by many to be one of the great tacticians of his time even if his man management skills left much to be desired.
Along the way however, what has been constant has been the reduction in access to the very top jobs in England – granted that Wenger and Ferguson have had two of the top jobs locked down for the longest time. Few British managers have any experience of managing in the Champions League for instance.
Other than David Moyes’ ill fated nine months at the helm of Manchester United and Mark Hughes’ slightly odd and truncated spell at neighbours City, only Brendan Rodgers and Harry Redknapp have had any real aspirations of managing a team capable of mounting a top four challenge over a period of time and managing in the CL.
The British of course, do have a slightly odd relationship with the rest of the world and there are many assumptions that things are better just because of how they sound or where they come from.
Food will always be considered to be better if it is from Italy or France, a car will be more efficient if it is from Germany or sexier if it is from Italy and footballers will always be better if they have a name that sounds remotely Brazilian.
Jose Mourinho is a prime example if we compare him – and indulge me here a little – with Sam Allardyce.
Mourinho’s teams play a brand of football that Chelsea fans would call pragmatic (and winning) and other fans would just call plain negative. Yet Mourinho is one of the most sought after coaches in the world despite his rampant short termism and typically needing a sizeable transfer budget. He gets results and that is what counts.
Sam Allardyce is not the most popular of figures in English football. Yet, with the playing talent he has had at his disposal, he has done a pretty decent job by most measures, especially at Bolton where he did a wonderful job. He played a relatively conservative brand of football yet was still able to integrate the likes of Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okacha and Hidetoshi Nakata into his teams.
Allardyce was laughed out of court and to this day is still sarcastically referred to as ‘Allardici’ for having the temerity to state that he believed he could do a good job of managing the likes of Inter Milan or Real Madrid.
But why is it so ridiculous of him to state that fact? He employs cutting edge methods including nutrition, sports science and by all accounts studies games and players using huge amounts of technology. He is hugely adept tactically also.
But it is of course Arsene Wenger who is credited with revolutionising football in England in these broad terms.
The problem for the likes of Big Sam these days is that they simply are not afforded the opportunities in the first place or given the time to grow in the job in the case of Davie Moyes. I personally find it hard to believe that had he been given the same transfer budget and time as Louis Van Gaal, that United under Moyes would be doing any worse or playing any less well than they are now.
Moyes in turn took the progressive step of going abroad to manage Real Sociedad to attempt to rebuild his career in the same way that Steve McLaren did after his stint in charge of England although that ultimately ended in failure for the Scotsman.
McLaren of course was pilloried for his spell in charge of the national team, and yes they missed out on 2008 but were England really that much better under the vastly more experienced (and infinitely better paid) duo of Sven Goran Eriksen and Fabio Cappello?
Football is of course like everything else far more global these days, only around a third of Premiership players hail from its’ own shores so it is logical that the coaching staff should be no different, and of course Britain suffers continually from its’ utter paralysis in being prepared to move abroad and further their footballing educations that way, mobility suffers from being on a one way street it would seem.
But despite all of this, it does seem that English managers are penalised for being, well English. Even at its’ height a few years ago, there were only so many British managers in the Premier League because someone somewhere had decided that managers born in Glasgow were of almost supernatural powers. Once that theory wore off, the numbers steeply declined again.
One possible explanation may be that much of the world has moved away from the traditional ‘manager’ towards very much a structure where this a first team coach.
Even the great Sir Alex is far more renowned as a man manager rather than for exceptional coaching or tactical abilities. Indeed the likes of Carlos Quieroz were often given the credit for the tactics of the team.
Clubs such as Chelsea and Liverpool have moved very much away from the scenario where the manager is buying and selling the players or indeed even choosing them in the first place. Only possibly Arsene Wenger retains complete autonomy within the English game and even he is said to have little or no involvement on the training pitch anymore.
For all the vast wealth being accumulated, the English game does seem to have got itself in a bit of a jam of late – as European results and the constant and repeated failure of the national team demonstrates – and it maybe just is possible that a bit more faith and perseverance with the domestic talent available maybe wouldn’t do any harm.
About the Author – Steven McBain
Steven is the lead colunmist at One Shot Football. A huge Chelsea fan and season ticket holder slowly brainwashing his children into being young Blues. Aspiring football blogger, radio pundit and all round football fan.