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Hodgson the latest victim in tale of English-manager-phobia

January 10, 2011 1 comment

 

English football managers are not as good as foreign ones. Reads like a truism, doesn’t it? Well it’s wrong. It is the result of long-term, blatant, endemic discrimination and it must stop.

The cause of restoring the beleaguered image and reputation of English managers suffered a major blow when Roy Hodgson parted company with Liverpool last week. Hodgson’s troubled tenure at Anfield gives credibility to the popularly-held opinion that fine English managers like him, Sam Allardyce, Harry Redknapp, Alan Curbishley, Ian Holloway, Steve Bruce etc are okay when handling a bunch of journeymen at their battling, middling clubs, but can’t deal with top players and manage the top teams. No, no, when one of those jobs comes up, don’t even bother listing an Englishman on the odds list – wasted bet. Not an option.

When the Chelsea job comes up, who will it be? Someone with Champions League experience? Well, then! It can’t be an Englishman because almost no Englishmen are given jobs with teams capable of qualifying for the Champions League. Tottenham is an interloper into what has until this season been a very exclusive cartel, in which two of the top teams – Manchester United and Arsenal – haven’t changed their managers (both not English) for decades. The only real chance for a home-grown gaffer would have been Chelsea or Liverpool, neither of which has appointed an English manager since 1994. So English managers are presumed incapable because none has been given a chance at Champions League level. Harry Redknapp’s performance with Spurs should prove that home-grown bosses do have the knowledge and the expertise: no one was worried about Redknapp’s lack of Champions League experience while Tottenham played champions Inter Milan off the park last November.

It is peculiarly English to denigrate and ignore our own managers, to the point where we can’t bear to appoint one of our own to the national role. In Spain and Italy, if a manager does well with a smaller, middling or good side they are given a chance at a big club (like Roberto Mancini, who did well at Lazio before getting the Inter job). They also appoint rookies of their own tribe (such as Guardiola at Barca) to top, top jobs, and after winning with what were already extremely good sides, these are presumed geniuses.

Sam Allardyce took Bolton into the Premier League and between 2004 and 2007 produced four consecutive top ten finishes: eighth, sixth (which put them in the UEFA Cup for the first time), eighth and then seventh – a record bettered only in that period by the then ‘big four’. Rafael Benitez had done far less before he inherited a Valencia squad brimming with potential. Had Allardyce done the same as an Italian in Italy, or a Spaniard in Spain, he would have had a top job. But not in England. He was fired by Newcastle when an average but improving team were 11th in the league.

It is sad to say it, and it sounds a little shrill, but it really is the case that many people instantly believe a man to be a more serious, impressive manager for a club with ambition if he has an exotic name. Ancelotti is better than Allardyce, Benitez is better than Bruce, Mancini better than Redknapp.

Hodgson’s departure sets back the cause of disproving this fallacy years. In reality, he has not become a bad manager. He inherited a team on the way down: with several very average players, injured good ones, and little money to spend.

He was a crucial test case for English managers everywhere and Liverpool have lost their courage after five months. Regardless of whether it is right or wrong, justified or unjustified, it is a disaster for English football.

The truth is there are plenty of talented and able English football managers out there, but they are banging their heads against a glass ceiling.

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