Managing overseas could once again be the best route for British bosses, argues Ian Doyle
NO sooner had Brian McDermott been ushered out of the door at Reading this week when the bookies were drawing up a shortlist for his replacement.
Among the front-runners were Roberto di Matteo, Paolo di Canio and Gus Poyet, all three having cut their managerial teeth in England.
With Reading’s Russian owner Anton Zingarevic unlikely to turn to homegrown helmers such as Nigel Adkins, it means soon nine of the 20 Premier League clubs will have foreign managers.
Yet glance across the dugouts in Europe’s other major leagues in Italy, Spain, Germany and France, and it doesn’t take long to notice what’s curiously absent.
However, history suggests there is a strong tradition of such coaches plying their trade abroad. And while they may not be high-profile, there is still plenty of British coaching representation across the globe.
Steve McClaren retreated overseas having become a figure of fun after failing as England manager, and went on to earn FC Twente their first-ever Dutch title before moving to German side Wolfsburg.
A second stint at Twente didn’t end so well when he parted company last month with supporters brandishing banners stating ‘Clean S--t’ – a reference to McClaren’s perceived negative tactics and his infamous cod-Dutch accent.
McClaren, though, remains undeterred and believes more British managers should try their luck overseas.
“I don’t think British managers can compete for the top jobs at the present moment because they haven’t got the experience of winning titles or playing in the Champions League,” he says.
“Young British managers have always looked to their home country to establish themselves but it’s getting more and more difficult for them to come through now because of the influx of foreign managers.
“Roy Hodgson is a perfect example of someone who’s left England to travel here, there and everywhere with all sorts of clubs and came back and established himself as a top manager. It’s something to try to emulate.”
Hodgson – Liverpool manager for 31 games in the 2010-11 season – is perhaps the most travelled of all British coaches, having worked in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
And there are plenty of other managers with Merseyside connections to have looked overseas.
Howard Kendall, frustrated at Everton’s lack of European football, spent more than two years at Athletic Bilbao before being sacked in November 1989, and later had spells managing in Greece.
Across Stanley Park, Graeme Souness worked at Torino and Benfica after leaving Liverpool but is best remembered for his stint at Galatasaray when, having won the Turkish Cup, the ever-retiring Scot planted a giant flag in the centre circle of rivals Fenerbahce.
“The Fenerbahce vice-president had made some smart-arse comments about me being a cripple earlier in the season, and it was just a spontaneous action,” says Souness.
Ex-Liverpool striker John Toshack, who only this week has taken the reins at Azerbaijani club Khazar Lankaran, has managed Sporting Lisbon, Real Madrid (twice), Real Sociedad (three times), Deportivo La Coruna, Murcia, Besiktas, Saint-Étienne, Italian side Catania and the Macedonia national team.
Spain was also home for Terry Venables (taking Barcelona to the European Cup final in 1986) and Ron Atkinson (Atletico Madrid), while Chris Coleman had a recent spell in charge at Real Sociedad.
The late Sir Bobby Robson is arguably the most successful Brit abroad, winning league titles with PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon and Porto and lifting the Spanish Cup, Spanish Super Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup with Barcelona.
Then come the more unusual appointments.
Graham Roberts, ex-Tottenham, was coach of Nepal until last year when unhappy about the Nepal Army “conscripting” two of their players.
Former Arsenal skipper Tony Adams managed Azerbaijani club Gabala FC while ex-Aston Villa and Derby County manager John Gregory was at Kazakhstan side FC Kairat.
Peter Taylor was sacked from the Bahrain national job, David Platt didn’t last long at Sampdoria while Robbie Fowler had a brief spell in charge at Muangthong United in Thailand.
One major drawback for British managers working abroad is the language – or rather, their lack of effort in learning anything other than English.
It’s why the rise of the MLS in the United States has opened up a whole new coaching avenue, former Liverpool favourite Steve Nicol, ex-Everton duo John Spencer and Mo Johnston and infamous Arsenal fall guy Steve Morrow having all coached in America.
The British influence runs deeper throughout the world, if not always hailed in this country.
Jimmy Hogan, who once worked at Walker’s Tobacco in Everton, is considered one of the great pioneers of the game in Europe, particularly for his spell in Hungary.
Indeed, when the Magical Magyars trounced England 6-3 at Wembley in 1953, after the match Hungary coach Gusztáv Sebes said: “We played football as Jimmy Hogan taught us. When our football history is told, his name should be written in gold letters.”
And Vic Buckingham was one of the first British managers to coach top European sides such as Ajax and Barcelona, and is credited for an approach in Holland in the 1960s that would blossom into the much-hailed Total Football philosophy.
The subject of British managers going abroad has become pertinent with speculation over David Moyes’s next move and the possibility of the Everton manager switching to the Bundesliga. And as McClaren says: “Why not go abroad? When foreign managers come to England, they often come with experience of winning things abroad.”