Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Managing success - Ebren

There is a lot of talk about the number of foreign managers running "our" football clubs.

It's a persuasive and powerful argument. Benitez was brought in to re-generate Liverpool's success. Wenger turned Arsenal into one of the leading clubs in Europe. Ramos at Spurs won the club's first trophy in what seems like forever and Ranieri then Mourinho *cough*Grant*cough then Scolari have been in charge of Abramovic's millions at Chelsea.

The national team was managed by Sven before McClaren messed up and now Capello is in charge to put things back on track.

These things allow writers to wallow in the defeatist "our football's going to the dogs and only foreigners can rescue us" articles and sentiments that fill the back pages.

It has got to the stage that managers in Spain all want to work in England, where the standard of coaching is so bad that small improvements will see them soar up the league and hugely enhance their status and earning powers.

But does it actually make sense?

No, in a word.

Of the 20 Premier League clubs, only five are managed by people who were not born in the UK. And Roy Keane is numbered among that minority.

Moreover there are just three Scots (Moyes, Ferguson and Mowbary), one Welshman (Hughes) and one Northern Irish manager (O'Neil) who are not English in charge of top flight clubs – meaning fully half the Premier League's managers are English.

Moreover, there are at least as many managerial 'failures' as successes in recent years from overseas gaffers. Sven was let go after a year, Jol deemed not good enough, Grant was never up to it, Gullit has been found wanting, Santini was never in the mix at Spurs (and the less about Gross the better). Tigana couldn't cut it at Fulham and Perrin failed at Pompey.

Looking overseas, Spain has as many "foreigners" as the Premier League: Pellegrini is in charge of Villarreal, Aguirre is in charge at Atletico Madrid, Kresic at Numancia, and Schuster at Real Madrid. Italy fares better, with only Mourinho at champions Inter not being Italian.

But in an age where the Premier League has the funds to bring in any manager on the planet, the fact that 16 of the managers don't even have to show their passport go back to their home town and return to work the next day is surely something to celebrate.

English Premier League Clubs' Use Of Foreign Managers:
Arsenal - Arsene Wenger (French, 1996 -)
Aston Villa - Dr Jozef Venglos (Czech, 1990-91)
Blackburn Rovers - none
Bolton Wanderers - none
Chelsea - Ruud Gullit (Dutch, 1996-98); Gianluca Vialli (Italian, 1998-2000); Claudio Ranieri (Italian, 2000-04); Jose Mourinho (Portuguese, 2004-07); Avram Grant (Israeli, 2007-08); Luiz Felipe Scolari (Brazilian, 2008 -)
Everton - none
Fulham - Jean Tigana (French, 2000-03)
Hull City - Jan Molby (Danish, 2002)
Liverpool - Gerard Houllier (French, 1998-2004); Rafael Benitez (Spanish, 2004 -)
Manchester City - Sven-Goran Eriksson (Swedish, 2007-08)
Manchester United - none
Middlesbrough - none
Newcastle United - Ossie Ardiles (Argentinian, 1991-92); Ruud Gullit (Dutch, 1998-99)
Portsmouth - Velimir Zajec (Croatian, 2004-05); Alain Perrin (French, 2005)
Stoke City - Gudjon Thordason (Icelandic, 1999-2002); Johan Boskamp (Dutch 2005-06)
Sunderland - none
Tottenham Hotspur - Ossie Ardiles (Argentinian, 1993-94); Christian Gross (Swiss, 1997-98); Jacques Santini (French, 2004); Martin Jol (Dutch, 2004-07); Juande Ramos (Spanish, 2007 -)
West Bromwich Albion - Ossie Ardiles (Argentinian, 1992-93)
West Ham United - none
Wigan Athletic - none

Source: http://www.goal.com/en-US/Articolo.aspx?ContenutoId=754810


Anonymous said...

Good piece of common sense. There's an interesting blog to be written on the _why_ of this myth. What is it about British sports journalism that encourages this kind of apocalyptic myth-making?


Ebren said...

There's an interesting argument about "going to the dogs" that I think I read in David Winner's "Those Feet".

It goes something like.... In the 19th century through to about 1945 Britain was top dog (although "1066 And All That" places the date at 1918).

We were the most powerful nation on earth (or certainly a super-power) and the best at football (or so we thought).

Then nothing changed - in fact, since then the quality of life has risen year on year and the quality of football has risen year on year (most people would agree that the teams of today would beat those of the past).

But, despite this, we are no longer top dog so... the country must be going backwards.

It's the idea that we must be doing something wrong to not be the best in the world automatically – we don't know what (because fundamentally, nothing has changed) – so we lash out at anything and blame it. Foreigners, whining at refs, rich footballers, Sky etc.

Best explanation I have heard so far of the British "going to the dogs" obsession.

guitougoal said...

Very good point.
it's not a myth since the 4 top teams are managed by non-english managers, that could be a problem however if Wenger was coaching Portmouth or Everton, I don't think he could do a better job than the actual coaches (he could be probably worst).
Ramos and Scolari, Mourinho as well were hired because they are talented and successful coaches , besides foreign managers are always attracted by higher pay checks- Globalization has also something to do with this issue, players and managers are taking advantage of an open market-However I would be more concerned by the wild importation of players because that hurts the development of the young british prospects and I would be favorable to a restrictive policy-Having said that, with the exception of Brasil or Argentina, I think European football supremacy has always been changing from one country to another-each country had its cycle of superioriy, it was Germany, then France now Spain, Italy and England had their glorious period too-At the club level so far premier league is better than any other league including Spain, thanks to the Ronaldos, Drogbas and Torres - but this accomplishment happen to be a kiss of death for the british football.We just can't have it both way.

Ebren said...

guitougoal - there are two separate questions here.

First is the influx of foreign players, second is the development of British youth.

Technically, the influx of foreign players does not hold back British youth.

Success elsewhere doesn't detract from success at home. The existence of Ronaldo does not make Messi or Rooney a worse player.

Potentially, the example of the top players in British clubs and in the league shows British youth how to play, raises the bar higher and means they see how these players become this good. Zola, Cantona and Desailly improved Lampard, Beckham and Terry respectively by being at the same club as they were developing.

Additionally, the success of the Premier League has resulted in more money and better facilities being made available for the training of British youths.

That said, if you are of the opinion that talent is best developed on the greatest stage, and playing with good players makes you better - then the existence at the top clubs of foreigners means British youths are not being developed as well as they might be.

Spain's success at the Euros was helped by having so many players in the Premier League according to this argument. British players don't get that opportunity so don't grow as players to the same extent. I have a lot of time for this view.

But, fundamentally, I think the talent - properly developed - will come through and a tough test produces better players. I am inclined to believe there is more problem developing our own youth to compete with foreign players, rather than a problem with the existence of foreign players in the league or of of clubs picking the best they can afford to succeed.

There are a lot of foreign players in Italy and in Spain - the reigning World and European champions. Look at the starting line ups of Real, Barca, Inter or whoever. Man U and Chelsea are at least comparable.

I would also argue that there are great British players (you could make a team of the 10 capped England players in the CL final - without a goalkeeper admittedly).

The problem with the England team is, I would say, a problem with the England team first and foremost. England should lead youth development - and use it's players better (through structure, attitudes or whatever).

guitougoal said...

very informative indeed however more than 60% of players in the top flight hail from other countries than
England with more transferts in the making sounds disproportionate to me and Yes,I would call for a restriction not a complete ban-A restriction doesn't include necessarily the top players you are referring to.They would have the same impact on English younger but still these youngsters would have a bigger chance to play.
I still agree with you that foreign players have helped to raise the level of football and techique in the premier league

Ebren said...

guitougoal - I don't think we're disagreeing here, more that we have a different emphasis.

Fundamentally, I blame the FA for England's failure more than I blame anyone else. And I like the pretty football on my screens that the foreign players enable. But then I never claimed to be rational about football. Except all those times I did.

andrewm said...

Mowbray is English, my dear.

Ebren said...

Very good point sir.

I was distracted by him coming from Hibs and winning the SFA manager of the year award.

Makes my case a little better then. (If anyone wants to check the rest of my figures, feel free).

andrewm said...

An Englishman will not manage one of the top four clubs for the foreseeable future, though. There is nothing a young English manager can do to earn these jobs. Anything they achieve can be bettered by someone in Italy, Spain or elsewhere.

The only possible exception is Paul Ince. He won't earn one of these jobs, because there's only so far Blackburn can go, but if he does OK he may yet get the call. This is because, despite high profile failures like Bryan Robson, the media (and by extension the fans) still love an ex-pro who goes into management. The careers of Gordon Strachan, Mark Hughes and Roy Keane are proof enough I think.

munni said...

I would like to make a distinction between internationalism and globalisation, but I'm not exactly sure what my point is.

I also suggest that the premiership's mass importation of talent is not always the best thing for the development of young European, South American, etc. players, either.

Ebren said...

good poimts both munni. Although I am more talking about the impact of the global marketplace on Premier League footballers and managers than the internationalism that might have cause or restricted thier presence.

mimi said...

It's not about fact, though is it? With football it's emotion first, then look at the facts after.

Not to say that's bad - but it's not realistic.

Already Arsenal are being written off this season - after two games??

greengrass said...

writing Arsenal off is part of the emotion: we do it cos it's fun, and bugger the facts!

Anyway, they're crap.

offsideintahiti said...

Nervous already, gg?

guitougoal said...

arsenial denial-
I think gg is enjoying himself by degrading our source of happiness-the beautiful passing game is appreciated only by the purists anyway :)
-but they look crapy for the moment.

g said...

Not a bit nervous - I have complete and utter faith in our foreign manager.

munni said...

I have complete, even blind faith in my foreign manager, but sometimes I wish he would stop trying to live according to some sort of platonic ideal of football. Fab when it works; doesn't work at the moment.

I'm nervous.

greengrass said...

that accusation cuts me deep, it does.

I love seeing beautiful passing, but it's not enough - I like scoring, too.

I love seeing beautiful women, but...

When I'm even older, I'll still be looking for beautiful passing that leads to scores.

guitougoal said...

there is a song about the beautiful women passing....

guitougoal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
offsideintahiti said...

Is anyone else worried about the number of foreign bloggers here?

Ebren, I've read the piece again, and I'm still not sure what point you're trying to make...

Allout said...


As the old saying goes, it's not quantity but quality. All the managers of the top four are foreign (defined as not English) and if you add Capello to the list, the five biggest managerial jobs in England are held by foreigners. And even the level immediately below this is dominated by non-Englishmen with Everton, Tottenham and Villa.

So, whilst it may be true that half the EPL managers are English, they inhabit almost exclusively the bottom half of the table.

Ebren said...

Allout - it's a little early to call that. Performances by the new English (promoted sides, Ince) could be telling.

If we assume the top clubs will stay there or thereabouts no matter who is in charge *cough*AvramGrant*cough* then what we are looking at is a recruitment failure at ambitious clubs rather than a managerial failure.

Hodgeson has managed big teams will in the past also.

Allout said...


It may change in the medium term, and it must be frustrating for the young English managers that the biggest clubs have automatically looked abroad when filling a managerial vacancy, but if you look at last year's league table there was definitely a split - top half foreign, bottom half English - and it is unlikely to change greatly this season.

MotM said...

Ebren - A seductive, but, I feel, mistaken argument.

No British manager is anywhere near success where it matters, The PL, CL and WC. Short of a Leeds-like financial meltdown at a Big Four club or a rermarkable set of circumstances that might lead say Owen Hargreaves to manage Bayern Munich to the 2014 CL as a kind of British Mourinho, I can't see a British manager in the quarter-finals of the CL or WC for the next ten years - except maybe via Celtic.

Top British managers will become extinct once SAF retires.

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