Country for old men - why can't young British managers get a Premier League chance?
One of the greatest criticisms of the modern-day Premier League is the idea that young British managers are facing the same blocked pathways to the top as young British players. The naysayers claim that the number of foreign managers being brought into the league are what causes the logjam; the idea that the big clubs need instant success and so look abroad for bosses rather than closer to home.
But is this actually true? Some would argue the facts speak for themselves – after all, in the 2017/18 season, there are 11 foreign bosses plying their trade in the Premier League, from the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho who manage top teams right down to Rafael Benitez and David Wagner who are in charge of lower-level sides. Foreign bosses equate to just over half of the Premier League’s managers, whereas La Liga has seven non-Spanish managers and the Bundesliga six non-Germans.
Another train of thought would suggest, however, that it’s something else entirely that blocks the path of young, British managers – the constant recycling of ageing British bosses who despite multiple failures and poor win/loss ratios, simply step into top job after top job based on reputations as “proper footballing men” and the idea that they can keep a side in the Premier League – but crucially, perhaps, not help the club to any proper progression.
Country for Old Men
The kind of names we’re talking about? The likes of David Moyes, Tony Pulis, Mark Hughes, Sam Allardyce (although he’s not currently employed) and Roy Hodgson. Those four names make up half of the current crop of British managers, with the “younger” contingent being made up of Paul Clement, Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche. Chris Hughton would fit more into the older section, but then I’d class him as very different from the others. Why? Because he actually seems to be helping Brighton to progress, as he did at Newcastle and Birmingham previously. He even did a passable job at Norwich.
That stands in contrast to the likes of Hughes, Moyes and Pulis. While Pulis is renowned for being able to keep teams in the Premier League – he’s never suffered a relegation in his 25-year career – and led West Bromwich Albion to 10th place in 2016/17, he’s also only got a 30% win ratio at the club and their form last season once they hit his magical 40 points was dismal – losing nine of their remaining 12 games and picking up just five points overall. Hughes? He’s been managing for 18 years, only has a 36% win ratio at Stoke City, and really, does anyone want to see his side play?
Then there’s Moyes. He gained a solid reputation at Everton as a man capable of helping a club to climb above their station, but after being fired by Manchester United in 2014, he’s been beyond awful. A poor stint at Real Sociedad was followed by a diabolical run at Sunderland that saw him win eight of 43 games – and lose 28. When he arrived at Wearside he immediately bought a defeatist attitude, and was anyone really surprised when they were relegated?
Another common tie between these ageing British managers? They all play dour football; the type of football that keeps you in the Premier League – just about – year after year but never really excites anyone. It might work to steal a point away from someone like Mourinho or Guardiola every now and then but do the fans really want to see it? When there are more adventurous managers around, from foreign bosses like Marco Silva to home-grown ones like Eddie Howe? Even Sam Allardyce, who prides himself on being “progressive” with psychology and training methods, became known as “Big Sham” at West Ham for his dire brand of football.
Look to the lower leagues?
Moyes was recently appointed as West Ham’s new manager after they sacked Slaven Bilic for a bad run of results. Nobody would argue that Bilic should’ve kept his job – he’d clearly lost control at the London Stadium and it was time for a change. But why Moyes? It’s not like he offers anything revolutionary, and he already failed at keeping Sunderland up last season. Two of the success stories in British management recently have been Eddie Howe and Sean Dyche, who’ve brought Bournemouth and Burnley up into the Premier League, and kept them there, all while playing relatively attractive football and not spending huge amounts of money.
If they’d gone foreign – as Hull City did last season by bringing in Marco Silva – then the Hammers probably would’ve garnered criticism. Remember Paul Merson slamming Silva’s appointment as he’d never heard of him? I wonder if he’d feel that way now?
But I digress. The lower leagues of English football are full of younger bosses dying for an opportunity. Darrell Clarke, for instance, has done a tremendous job at Bristol Rovers, bringing them back into the Football League and then taking them from League Two into League One right after that. Last season Rovers finished 10th in League One – that’s progress. More to the point, he’s only been managing since 2010 and only at a Football League club since 2014. He’s fresh.
Then there’s Gary Rowett, currently at Derby County. Rowett previously managed Birmingham City, who he guided from 21st in the Championship up to 10th in his first season, 2014/15. 2015/16 saw them finish in the same spot before he was strangely fired in December 2016. After he was sacked? The club slid back down the table and narrowly avoided relegation. Derby meanwhile now sit in 9th in the Championship less than a year after Rowett arrived.
Take the risk?
There are other names, too – Lee Johnson and Garry Monk, for example – so why keep recycling the same tired old names like Moyes? Do West Ham really believe that Moyes could do a better job in the hot seat than someone like Clarke or Rowett? Or do they just not care to look? And what of West Brom, stuck with Pulis and his dire football for three seasons now? Could they not consider someone from the lower league and hope that they can do what Dyche has done at Burnley, or Howe at Bournemouth?
Sure, it’d be a risk, but then Hull took a risk on Marco Silva and it almost paid off, and Watford’s risk on him is paying dividends now. And surely, if West Ham – or West Brom – are going to be relegated anyway under Moyes or Pulis, then why not take that risk on someone like Clarke and try to play some fresher football at the same time?
With the constant recycling of names like Moyes, Hodgson and Allardyce – two have already been appointed by struggling clubs this season to replace outgoing foreign names – perhaps it’s a case that it isn’t foreign bosses who are blocking the pathways for young British managers, but the stale old guard who just don’t know when their time is up.