This afternoon David Moyes will take his place in the West Ham dugout for the first time since his appointment as manager on a short-term deal following the sacking of Slaven Bilic nearly a fortnight ago. The Scotsman’s appointment comes hot on the heels of various pundits and former Premier League managers bemoaning the lack of opportunities afforded to British coaches in the country’s top division, but how much truth is there in British managers being overlooked, and if they are, why is a manager that has won ten of his last fifty-three games still getting the job at a top flight club?
“It is a real shame that we are highly educated, highly talented coaches now with nowhere to go. The Premier League is the foreign league in England now.” Sam Allardyce’s laser sharp observation that British and Irish coaches are treated as “second class” in the Premier League came during a discussion with Richard Keys and Andy Gray on their Qatar-based football show following the appointment of Claude Puel as Leicester City manager. The Frenchman was brought in to replace the deposed Craig Shakespeare after a poor start to the season from the Foxes, a decision met with surprise across the country given the dramatic turnaround in Leicester’s form in the second half of last season. After the appointment was announced, Keys used his hairy hands to tweet ‘RIP British Coaching’ in one of the most melodramatic posts the platform has seen which, given the times we are living in, is an incredible feat from the simian broadcaster.
Needless to say, Keys was delighted when Moyes was given the gig at the London Stadium, taking to his blog to blow shisha smoke up the Glasweigian’s back passage. He wasn’t backed properly at Manchester United, and he was badly advised when taking jobs at Real Sociedad and Sunderland according to the erstwhile Sky Sports presenter. Unfortunately for West Ham fans, Moyes has got another three years of bad luck to follow if we’re blaming this on the mirror he cracked when moving in at Old Trafford. His achievement of taking a Premier League winning Manchester United out of the top six probably had nothing to do with spunking £30m on Marouane Fellaini and putting in a derisory bid for Leighton Baines in the first instance of the now famous trope of ‘Moysey getting the band back together’. Nor would it have anything to do with alienating one of his key players in Rio Ferdinand by suggesting that he ‘study what Phil Jagielka does’. In Spain he faced accusations of refusing to adapt to the culture, though he did at least take a leaf from Steve McClaren’s book and affect a cod-foreign accent during his press conferences. At Sunderland he won six league games despite adding nearly £35m worth of players to his squad, including five former Everton players. ‘But…but…it was all Di Canio’s fault!’ cries Keys, with his head firmly in the Qatari sand that he’s shoved up his arse. Paolo Di Canio spent six months at Sunderland, three years before Moyes was appointed. For the myriad of faults in Di Canio’s character, to apportion blame to him for Sunderland’s relegation last season is as far fetched as a Rupert Murdoch employee being sacked for on-air chauvinism. Keys’ pal Allardyce also gets a mention, suggesting that he was an impossible act to follow as Sunderland manager. The article followed a tweet early in the week posing the question ‘Every club Big Sam has left got relegated. He must do something right when he’s in work?’ Admittedly in between blowing the opportunity of a job he’d claimed he’d wanted his whole career by being a greedy bastard, Allardyce has managed to forge a reputation as a firefighter, averting disaster at both Sunderland and Crystal Palace. Of the teams that were relegated in those seasons, five of the six spent most if not all season managed by British coaches, and Tim Sherwood’s 6th placed finish with Tottenham Hotspur in 2014 remains the highest placing by a British manager since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. RIP British coaching indeed.
It’s safe to say there’s a dearth in the talent pool as far as British coaches are concerned, with the likes of Moyes, Allardyce and Roy Hodgson looking like relics of a bygone era but still being given Premier League jobs, while the likes of Alan Pardew, Nigel Pearson, and Sherwood are still regularly touted for big jobs despite proving themselves as, at best, average managers with a streaky nature. But how true is the assertion that British coaches are being overlooked? Since the start of the 2014/15 season there have been thirty nine full-time managerial appointments in the Premier League. Of those, sixteen were British and twenty three were foreign so while Allardyce’s suggestion of British coaches being treated as second-class is wide of the mark, there is some truth in Premier League teams now preferring to opt for foreign coaches who have, more often than not, gained their experience elsewhere in Europe. Is it blind prejudice from the decision makers at Premier League clubs? No. Here’s the bit with the stats.
Based on their careers to date, the sixteen British coaches appointed since 2014 have an average win percentage of 39.3%. Giving that number an air of respectability are Hodgson and McClaren, both of whom have flopped at big Premier League clubs in Liverpool and Newcastle, both of whom have decent win percentages as England manager despite overseeing two of the worst nights in recent memory for the national team, and both of whom have enjoyed excellent spells managing…in Europe, with Hodgson winning four Swedish league titles with Malmo, and McClaren claiming the Eredivisie at FC Twente. Bringing the overall average down are Mike ‘More Than A’ Phelan, Chris Ramsey, who endured a wretched three months in the Premier League at QPR after taking the reins of the car crash left by Harry Redknapp, and John Carver, who managed to take Newcastle from mid-table to the brink of relegation in less than six months. Carver’s career win percentage actually improved after his recent spell in Cyprus with Omonia, despite their supporters hounding him out after eight months in charge. Those in the middle are your usual suspects – Tony Pulisaur, Alan Pardewdactyl et al.
As for the foreign appointments, they’ve amassed an average career win percentage of 46.7%. Unsurprisingly, Pep Guardiola leads the way on 71.9%, with Jose Mourinho close behind on 65.5%. Bringing up the rear are two Italians – Walter Mazzari, a bizarre appointment from Watford’s Italian owner, and Francesco Guidolin, a seemingly needless change in manager given the progress made under the promising Garry Monk at Swansea. Perhaps the most exciting manager in the Premier League at the moment is Marco Silva. With successful spells at Estoril and Sporting in his native Portugal and Olympiakos in Greece, Silva’s appointment at Hull City was met with disbelief and derision in some quarters, particularly by the two brain cells shared between Paul Merson and Phil Thompson in the Soccer Saturday studio. Merson was quick to declaim Silva’s achievements in Greece “I could win the league with Olympiakos. I’m not even joking. They’ve won it 107 times and it’s only been going 106 years.” It’s been going for 90 and they’ve won it 44 times. Phil Thompson called the appointment “an embarrassment” and Silva “knew nothing about Hull”. Quite how red-faced Thompson was after his beloved Liverpool were beaten 2-0 by Hull in Silva’s fourth game is not known, but the Portuguese quickly made his detractors eat their words, and despite failing to save Hull from the drop, Watford were quick to secure Silva’s services ahead of this season, where they’ve made an impressive start.
So aside from the old guard, where are the next great British managers coming from? In the Premier League, Sean Dyche is currently flavour of the month, having seen his Burnley side get off to an incredible start this season. There are calls for the gravel-voiced coach to be given a ‘big job’, such as the one at Everton, though why Dyche would swap his overachieving Burnley team for the woefully unbalanced squad at Goodison Park remains a mystery. Unfortunately for Dyche, as with most younger British managers, the chances of getting a job at one of the top six are currently slim to none, so if he’s to prove himself as a good British coach this would be the perfect opportunity. Ironically it would deny another up and coming British coach of his chance. David Unsworth is currently the caretaker manager at Everton, having performed excellently in Premier League 2 with the Toffees under-23 squad. Having made the changes that sparked Everton’s comeback against Watford two weeks ago surely Unsworth deserves his chance in the top job? Elsewhere in the Premier League, Eddie Howe was being touted as a future Arsenal and/or England manager as recently as last season, but Bournemouth’s struggles at the start of the campaign dampened these calls somewhat. With the Cherries starting to pick up points, expect his supporters to become vociferous once more, conveniently forgetting his average stint in charge of Burnley. Paul Clement’s history of assisting Carlo Ancellotti at Chelsea, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich led to him being touted as a future great manager, and he did well to steer Swansea away from trouble last season, however the Swans are in another relegation scrap this time out, and it remains to be seen whether Clement will be given time to turn things around.
Further down the leagues Garry Monk is looking to restore his reputation at Middlesbrough after his Leeds side bottled the chance of the Championship play-offs last season, while Lee Johnson has Bristol City flying high, though his long-term record leaves the jury out. Gary Rowett’s reputation was increased after his sacking at Birmingham City, as his successor Gianfranco Zola took the Blues from the playoffs to the brink of relegation, Rowett’s Derby County team are currently just outside the playoffs. Across Brian Clough Way, Mark Warburton has turned Nottingham Forest into more than perennial strugglers after securing Championship football for Brentford before earning promotion in Scotland with Glasgow Rangers. The work Kevin Nolan is doing with Notts County is also worth a mention, having taken over a team destined for relegation that are now sitting proudly atop of League Two. This is just scratching the surface of the potentially exciting next generation of British managers, with the likes of Graham Potter at Ostersunds – who we’ll be looking at more closely in the coming weeks – not yet even in the conversation. If these young coaches continue to impress, their chance in the Premier League will come, and eventually the opportunity of a big club will arise. Just look at Gareth Southgate.
Whether Moyes will turn out to be the disastrous appointment many are expecting remains to be seen, but if and when he finally does pack up his desk at the London Stadium you can bet a thousand Qatari riyals the likes of Keys, Gray and Merson will be screaming for another British appointment, despite the damning evidence against them.