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    OPINION: Football scholar Neville could herald new era of British managers

    By Dominic Booth


    Gary Neville’s appointment at Valencia could be the most exciting thing to happen to football in this country since Sir Alex Ferguson arriving at Old Trafford. Never mind about Spain, Neville could inspire an English generation to drop their microphones and dish out the bibs and cones.

    It is no secret that British bosses are a dying breed. Even in the Championship, that supposed ‘engine room’ of traditional, meat-and-two-veg football, the British managers have drifted into obscurity, gradually replaced by a scarf-wearing, ‘technical’, gegenpressing sort.
    Neville has been appointed Valencia boss

    Quique Sanchez Flores has been at the forefront of a cultural revolution, as foreign managers prevail in the English second tier.

    Carlos Carvahal, Karl Fraeye, David Wagner are in charge of Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton Athletic and Huddersfield Town respectively. All have been appointed by owners frantically searching for a method that will to hoist their clubs into the Premier League.

    Those owners have followed a worrying trend. Clubs simply don’t trust British managers anymore.

    It has been this way for a while. An English manager has never actually won the English Premier League. Howard Wilkinson, as if ushering in the new age, won the First Division title in 1992. Then the Premier League arrived, like that cousin you never wanted to see at Christmas. Ferguson stopped for the rot for a while, but the British bosses became an unfashionable, ungainly bunch.

    From Sam Allardyce and Roy Hodgson, to Harry Redknapp and Steve McLaren – all found themselves ridiculed, replaced and subsequently floundering in the league’s lower echelons. Even Garry Monk – who wears scarves and jumpers and likes passing it on the deck – is now under pressure.

    Hodgson is the England manager, a man who should be at the pinnacle of the English game. Yet he receives the same treatment. No faith is shown in him, neither by press or by public. He is avuncular Roy, ‘good old Roy’, the guy who definitely won’t win the World Cup. There is little faith in his ability as a tactical manager. Nobody is really backing him to mastermind an England revival. Not really.

    Allardyce gets the same treatment wherever he goes, despite an astonishing record of keeping clubs in a false position, several places higher than they ought to finish. 

    Redknapp led Tottenham into the Champions League for goodness sake – he won a trophy with them! But he never cracked the big time. He was never offered anything better, presumably because owners preferred to gamble on André Villas Boas, Mauricio Pochettino and company.

    Tim Sherwood, replaced by Rémi Garde. David Moyes, replaced by Louis Van Gaal. Brendan Rodgers, replaced by Jurgen Klopp. The writing keeps appearing on the wall.

    When Klopp replaced Rodgers at Liverpool, it was like the messiah had arrived, booting out the supply teacher that nobody liked. Yet Rodgers, like Moyes at Manchester United, was promised time he would never see, building a project he would never finish.

    The hierarchies at United and Liverpool felt they couldn’t trust an unproven British manager to take them forward. Ryan Giggs had stepped in briefly after the demise of Moyes buut Ed Woodward – understandably – wanted a big name from Europe, rather than a young guy like Giggs who had never managed at the top level. John Henry and Fenway Sports Group wanted the same when they sought a replacement for Rodgers. 

    Go abroad they say, go and earn your reputation, they say –  but that didn't work either.

    Moyes’ ill-fated stint at Real Sociedad did nothing to change the idea that United were wrong to sack him. McLaren cracked it at FC Twente, then bottled it at Wolfsburg, all of which amounted to proof that they did not have the same mettle as Van Gaal or Mourinho, who have earned their stripes in various leagues around Europe.

    Which brings me neatly back to Gary Neville. An unproven manager, for sure. Another packing his bags for a European club without grasp of the language or culture, but a man with the right approach, attitude and experience. People have faith in him.

    With the future of British managers seemingly resting in the hands of Monk (struggling) and Alan Pardew (no), where else do we turn for hope?

    Could England's so-called ‘Golden Generation’ make an impact on Europe’s managerial scene? Could the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Jamie Carragher follow Neville into the big European jobs?

    Giggs is heir-apparent at United and the Neville brothers are now firmly on the managerial ladder at Valencia – the landscape could be changing.

    If more European managers are coming to these shores to manage, then our young coaches should be doing the same. It’s the logical step.

    Who knows – Neville could go on to challenge the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid atop La Lia. At the very least, he should inspire his mates Carragher and Scholes to give up the punditry and set themselves a proper challenge. Where Moyes and McLaren failed, the ‘Golden Generation’ could reconquer, reestablish British managers as a force once more.

    Let’s speculate.

    Maybe we could see a return to the halcyon days of the 1970s and 80s, when big characters like Brian Clough, Matt Busby and Bill Shankly battled for the biggest trophies. The Italians, Germans and Spaniards have dominated the landscape since. They have proven beyond the reach of this country’s coaching capabilities, far superior in every facet of management. Ferguson-aside, it has been a poor show from the British bosses. It’s time for that to change.

    Many factors have stopped the rise of the Brit in Europe before.  Our natural aversion to learning languages, reluctance to live abroad and tendency to be tactically-naive. But Neville brings a verve and confidence rarely seen in the apathetic world of modern day British football.


    I mean, the man has single-handedly revolutionised television punditry. He seems able to cope with the social media vitriol that blight the career of anyone who dares offer an opinion on the beautiful game. By that token, management should be a doddle.
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    Item Reviewed: OPINION: Football scholar Neville could herald new era of British managers Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Dominic Booth
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