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English Premier League: A Closed Shop for Homegrown Managers

Diego Maradona was linked with Fulham and Blackburn. But would he have done any good?

The Premier League appears to be a closed shop to lower league managers. They are constantly over looked in favor of foreign bosses who command a high remuneration, wearing Armani suits, or former top-flight players with little experience. Out of the twenty top flight teams in the premier league, seven are managed by overseas managers

The English managers working away in the lower leagues, often battling away on tight budgets, find it hard to impress big clubs into signing them. Working on a meagre budget means they cannot emulate the success of foreign coaches like Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini. Without the means to bring in the players they want but still managing to find success from what little resources they have, is a testament to their coaching and man management abilities. Premier league clubs are always looking away from their shores for employing managers for over a decade now, and rarely do they bring success. Discounting the likes of Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez, who all came to the Premier League with big reputations and fantastic C.V.’s, foreign managers have largely been flops.

Paul Ince

The few Englishmen who got the chance are those who were rushed into a job. Paul Ince probably took up the Blackburn job too soon after impressing with MK Dons, and his failure in the Premiership has sent him packing to where he came from. Gareth Southgate, another player who failed at management was given special dispensation by various governing bodies to ensure he could be in charge at Boro. Again, he wasn’t ready. Another Englishman rushed in and rushed out.

Similarly Alan Shearer was hailed as a messiah figure at Newcastle and was given six games to save their top flight status. He failed, and he has not got another shot as manager ever since.

Juande Ramos, Gianfranco Zola, Avram Grant, Jean Tigana, Luis Felipe Scolari, Alain Perrin have all been flops, and probably pricey ones at that. Clubs still prefer to go for the foreign option, like an ex top-flight player like Alan Shearer and Paul Ince, or with the ones who are successful in other leagues.

Sven Goran Eriksson and Jose Mourinho

Worryingly it seems that the penchant for a foreign boss is seeping into the lower leagues itself, with Roberto Di Matteo, Paulo Sousa, Sven Goran Eriksson and Gus Poyet all having taken up jobs at the Championship and League one in the last couple of seasons. It seems that the only way for a British manager to break into the big league is only via promotion, like Ian Holloway, Steve Coppell and Phil Brown. But they struggled to last more than a couple of seasons.

Even if they manage to keep their side in the Premiership, against all odds, they are mercilessly sacked after a few bad results like Chris Hughton at Newcastle United. The main reason behind it could be tactical or is it really the case? The Chairmen may be looking for more attacking style of football, something that will be more attractive and popular among the fans. They probably think that the lower leagues are still all kick and rush, like a one route “hoof ball”. It isn’t quite the case anymore. Plenty of managers in the lower leagues make their sides play good football, and have proved themselves to adapt to different situations.

Maybe they think managers coming out of a lower division, without a big reputation won’t be able to handle, or command respect from the super star prima donnas of the Premiership. Another advantage which a chairman overlooks, is that taking a boss from Huddersfield or Norwich will probably be cheaper than taking one from Germany, Italy or Spain.


Eddie Howe

Take Eddie Howe for instance, the most wanted man in the Football League. Any club with the manager post vacant have been after the former Bournemouth boss, who recently moved up north to manage Burnley. With less money than an Irish bank, he has taken Bournemouth from teetering on the brink of non-league with points deduction to a top two spot in League One, playing some good football at the same time.

This shows that Howe’s career is progressing nicely, at 33 he is still extremely young for a manager, but if he continues to do well without getting Burnley back in the Premiership, will a top flight club really look to him as their next manager?

In fact the last manager to have really come from the lower leagues and establish himself in the top flight is David Moyes (a Scot, little help to the English national team) who after doing brilliantly with Preston was snapped up by Everton and has won the LMA manager of the year award three times and also helped Everton  finish 4th in 2005.

Nigel Adkins and Lee Clark are British managers doing well in League One, while the likes of Paul Lambert, Simon Grayson, Dave Jones and Malky Mackay are all doing well in The Championship. Neil Warnock looks likely to bring his QPR side to the Premiership. Most of the aforementioned sides play decent football, keeping the ball on the deck rather than resorting to booting it to a target man. Are they being linked with the vacant spot at Blackburn? Will they be on the shortlist to take over at Upton Park or Villa Park if and when these jobs become available? It’s very unlikely. Should they be? Yes they should be!

With only five English managers in the top flight, every time one does badly, whether rushed in, or under extreme pressure, their stock falls, and the chairmen’s start looking for alternatives. Often they are trying ex-players, or messiahs, or the tired old names, rather than taking an educated and informed gamble on an up and comer from the lower leagues.

If they aren’t, where will the next England boss come from? The FA has stated they want to go English after Capello leaves. After what happened to Roy Hodgson at Liverpool, there are now three candidates from the top flight: Harry Redknapp, Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce, after that…nothing.

It’s time that Premier League chairmen stopped looking abroad for managers, after all, would Diego Maradona really do better at Ewood Park that Eddie Howe or Paul Lambert?

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